Get Your AI Strategy Ready for 2018


I recently moved from suburban Connecticut to what passes for a city in Vermont. Moving, as you probably know, is stressful—even in the digital age when so much can be done online. We used Craigslist to find apartments for rent. I headed over to Google Maps to check out the neighborhoods in my new, unfamiliar city. Once we’d decided on a new home—and I immediately forgot how far it was from downtown—I strolled the virtual streets and realized there is park just across the road. We traded documents with our new landlord via email.

Meanwhile, back in Connecticut, I was selling my house. I was obsessively checking my listing’s stats on Zillow and texting my agent damn near constantly. It didn’t take long to get an offer, but nothing ever goes smoothly. The inspection revealed needed repairs, and this time, I didn’t turn to the internet (not ultimately, anyway). I tried using one of those sites that claims to tell you everything you need to know about contractors in your area. The first electrician it suggested—complete with a five-star rating—has litigation pending. I decided it was better to listen to my real estate agent and work with people she knew and trusted—or call up friends with the required skills.

We booked a moving truck via the web and changed those plans when we realized there was going to be a Tiny House Festival (thanks for the suggestion Facebook!) a few blocks from our new front door. We needed to be there in time to attend.

It got me wondering how people managed to move across state lines—sometimes, across the country or to new continents—without the help of the internet. If you moved from New York to Los Angeles, did you have to fly across the country without an inkling of where you might want to live and start house hunting blindly? I imagine they did a lot of what I did when it came time to find contractors to work with. They turned to the advice of professionals and trusted friends to make their transitions easier.

We try to approximate that on the web. It’s what user reviews are all about, and it’s why so many brands are turning to influencers and content marketing to reach audiences. We love the convenience of Google and the ability to use our smartphones to do just about anything. But even the tiny computers in our pockets have their limits. They can only do so much. Sometimes, you need human expertise.

Of course, developers and programmers are working on making those machines more human. Throughout this issue, you’ll read just how important artificial intelligence (AI) has become to every corner of the digital content industry. But what is AI if not a substitute for human intelligence?

It’s pretty clear that 2018 is going to be a breakout year for AI on every front. Our judges can’t stop talking about it, and the companies on the EContent 100 List are embracing it. But research shows that while companies know how important AI is, they aren’t all ready for it. “Reshaping Business With Artificial Intelligence: Closing the Gap Between Ambition and Action,” by MIT Sloan Management Review and The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that companies are not as prepared for the coming AI-pocalypse as they need to be. According to the report’s findings, “Three-quarters of respondents believe AI will enable their companies to move into new businesses. Almost 85% believe AI will allow their companies to gain or sustain a competitive advantage.” But only about half of them have a strategy in place.

That may sound distressing, but it also presents an opportunity. Many of these companies are in the digital media and marketing space. If 50% of them still don’t have an AI strategy, it means they are still figuring it out—and there is still time to influence those strategies for the better.

There are many things machines do better than humans. Crunching data is one of them. Putting AI to its best use will mean finding the right place for it in your larger strategy. It should be about freeing up the people on your team to do their best work and letting machines do the busy work.