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Nikkei BP: “There will be a split between media companies that view AI as a partner, and those that do not”

As part of our forthcoming report on Talent and Culture, with a special emphasis on the impact of AI, Nikkei Business Publications’ Yasuo Metsugi and Yuko Tanaka explain how the successful media company of the future will be one that views AI as a colleague and partner, not a threat. Crucially, human creativity will become more valued.

Established in 1969, Nikkei Business Publications is a cross-media B2B company that provides high value-added information covering business management, technology, and life. Whilst its primary business is print and online media, the Tokyo-headquartered company also offers a wide array of B2B exhibitions, seminars, customized publishing, research, and consulting services. In short, it is one of the world’s pre-eminent B2B media organizations.

Speaking (via email) as part of our forthcoming report on the state of talent and culture, with a special emphasis on the impact of AI, Yasuo Metsugi (General Manager of Nikkei’s Future Business Incubation Office) and Yuko Tanaka (General Manager of Nikkei’s Global Business Unit) state that whilst the impact of AI is currently minimal on Nikkei’s business operations, that’s set to change dramatically, “The value of work and the value of human resources will change in terms of priorities. For example, the content of professional work will change. The qualities required for leadership and management will change.”

The most impacted area of our business will be content creation and planning. Why? Firstly, more and more people will be satisfied with content summarized by AI, collected by AI, or created by AI. Secondly, the B2B expertise needed for detailed explanations will no longer be seen as “expertise” in the AI era as the difference in skillsets between professionals and consumers becomes smaller.

Yasuo Metsugi & Yuko Tanaka, Nikkei BP

Viewing AI as an opportunity, not an existential threat

When asked whether AI had already replaced any roles within Nikkei BP, the answer was a firm “not yet” but the pair expected a raft of changes over the forthcoming years, “Some roles will certainly be replaced within the next few years, but they will be mainly back office roles. In our case, for example, collecting and analyzing data of all kinds to write reports, sending out eDMs, writing press releases, proofreading, etc. are the roles that will be replaced.”

The pair say that as Nikkei’s back office roles increasingly become automated through AI, the value of human creativity will become more important, “The roles that will be replaced by AI will be where there is no need for creativity.”

More human originality will become essential in the future.

Yasuo Metsugi & Yuko Tanaka, Nikkei BP

Whilst the pair recognise that human creativity will be a key differential moving forwards, staff at Nikkei BP will still be expected to show a good standard of AI literacy. This will be especially true of new hires, “Employees will need to understand AI and use it, experience it. Then, they will need to change their mindset to consider the opportunities of AI, not the risks.”

They add that the Japanese culture poses an extra challenge because words can often be unspoken yet their meaning can still be understood – whilst this isn’t a challenge with human interactions it poses a significant hurdle with AI because command inputs have to be precise, “Staff will need to develop the ability of communicating correctly in words in order to give appropriate instructions to AI. The important point is that ideas and concepts to use AI must first be created, upon which expertise in data management and other areas need to be added.”

Hiring challenges for AI

When asked whether any new roles had been created to harness AI, the pair said that temporary roles had already been created, but no permanent roles as yet, “We have created temporary roles for this transitional stage but not permanent roles; more like adding AI elements to existing roles.”

Yasuo Metsugi and Yuko Tanaka also acknowledge that the entire hiring process for media organizations will need to change. That’s certainly the case for Nikkei, “It will be difficult to initially evaluate a candidate based on papers and other written materials. Also, since writing and expression skills can be supplemented by AI in the future, they will become unnecessary for evaluating candidates.

Instead, a candidate’s ability to evaluate AI processes and AI usage will become necessary….the importance of traditional information evaluation such as logical thinking ability, expressive ability, flexible thinking ability and receptiveness will change.”

Because AI is a new technology and likely to change very quickly, the key will be to recruit with fluidity (i.e., people will come and go on a project-by-project basis).

Yasuo Metsugi & Yuko Tanaka, Nikkei BP

Impact on company culture, final thoughts

We ended by asking Yasuo Metsugi & Yuko Tanaka whether AI had impacted their company culture, something that Nikkei BP places great store on, “There is no impact at this time, but as AI use increases, there will be impact.

And they end by sounding a warning to media executives everywhere,

Eventually, there will be a split between cultures that can position AI as a colleague or a partner rather than just a tool, and those that cannot. The former will be more capable of survival in the AI age.

Yasuo Metsugi & Yuko Tanaka, Nikkei BP

Yasuo Metsugi and Yuko Tanaka’s thoughts on AI, and its impact on hiring, talent and company culture form part of our wider report on the topic, which will be released soon, and will feature other major media organizations.