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Context Cards

Use AI/ML to auto create and distribute context in the form of short-form cards/modules alongside news articles.

Table of Contents

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Discovering the concept

Why context: It is not necessary that audiences will know the context of current news events. 

  • The absence of context makes audiences susceptible to misinformation. 
  • Additionally, providing historical facts and data increases a users’ confidence in a news source. 

Why automate: Newsrooms are optimized to stay on top of the news cycle and publish news fast and in vast quantities. Given this:

  • It isn’t always possible for the newsroom to research the archive to write the context.
  • Additionally, even if it is written, it is unlikely that the newsroom will be able to keep it updated.

The need for structure: News covers a variety of topics — Sports, Politics, Business, Economy, Personal Finance — and there is no clear demarcation of where a particular topic will be found. We built upon the SIXTY user needs questions identified in by Clwstwr, Deutsche Welle, Il Sole 24 Ore and Maharat Foundation as part of the JournalismAI Collab Challenges 2021 / EMEA.

Over the last few months, the concept evolved as we discovered more nuances. Below are blog posts from then. The last piece that was published in the Polis LSE blog is the clearest version of what we intend to build. The other two demonstrate our thoughts in its evolutionary process.

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Discovering the user experience

The concept of context as product is not novel. It has been around in multiple shapes and forms. Below are some of the examples we curated for inspiration.

Examples from news products

Examples from BigTech

The team discussed multiple design options but eventually concluded to stick to cards as a design concept.

The final UX: When a user is reading an article, they gets a prompt or nudge at the bottom sticky footer. For the copy of the prompt, we decided to use the user needs questions defined as part of On clicking it, a bottom sheet opens and showcases context.

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How the product will look

We referred to the algebra of modular journalism and from 60 user need questions, we came up with five card ideas for providing context. 

  • Timeline: The timeline card tells what happened when.
  • Expert Speak: This card tells who said what.
  • Data: This card shares relevant facts.
  • FAQs: This card answers most popular questions on this newscycle
  • Mentions: This card gives information about the most relevant stakeholders in the given newscycle.
Expert Speak
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Step 1: Topic modeling

Editors publish stories in relevant sections and subsections such as sports, cricket, tennis, world, US, politics, general elections, etc. However, online users are more interested in specific obsessions or hash tags, for example, Russia Ukraine War. Hence, the first step, was to invest in an algorithm to cluster the archive around news cycles instead of sections.

For this, we explored Topic Modeling algorithms. You can find our detailed evaluation in the below two blogposts:

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Step 2: Generate copy for the context cards

To find the context we will use machine learning to go through all articles in a given newscycle which will pick the relevant information/facts that are then displayed in our five Context Cards. For this step, we explore two options:

  • Using pre-trained small language models
  • Using OpenAI’s GPT-3
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Option #1: Pre-trained small language models

Once we’ve bucketed the archive into topics, we intend to build the following cards/modules using ML:

[Introduction] Can you tell me what happened in very few words?

Most context is at the news cycle level and not at the story level. Hence, whenever a user sees one story, contextually, we show a bottom sheet with: Headline, Description, Follow button.

For now, both will be written by the editor because its workflow can be tied to the supervision required on top of the topic modelling algorithm. You can read more about it in the blogpost Refining topic modeling to automate taxonomy

[Timeline] What has got us here?

[Expert Speak] What do key people say? How many points of view are there on this topic?

[Data] What is the data?


[Mentions] Who is it about? Who is involved?

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Option #2: Using GPT-3 davinci-003

OpenAI released GPT-3’s latest upgrade—davinci-003 in November 2022. We decided to try it out for generating content for Context Cards. Here is a summary of what we found:

  • GPT-3’s ability to give a summary is like magic
  • GPT-3 will have a knowledge gap on developing stories and hence it tends to get facts wrong
  • In its attempt to be contextual, GPT-3 tends to be parochial

GPT-3 will surely help speed up the process to get the first draft. However, we’ll still need senior editorial supervision and review of the content generated before it can be published as context cards. Read more about findings in the blog below.

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  • All of this was possible because of the JournalismAI Fellowship programme run by JournalismAI at POLIS at the London School of Economics and Political Science:
    • Charlie Beckett
    • Mattia Peretti
    • Lakshmi Sivadas
  • Mentors:
    • Dr. Tess Jeffers of Wall Street Journal
    • Shirish Kulkarni of Clwstwr
    • Manish Mishra and Gyan Mittal, Times Internet
  • Team: