What if artificial intelligence was the nurturing humus that the publishing industry and blogs need to bloom again? What if the future of blogging was in the virtual hands of an army of machines that can work together with professional writers to build and spread knowledge? This is the story of Sam Isma, founder and publisher of the online design magazine FREEYORK, which publishes 25-30 articles a week employing just two editors. How do they do this? Let’s look closer to understand Sam’s visionary model.
A.I. is a mindset.
Eclectic and creative, Sam is halfway between tech and design with a strong entrepreneurial mindset. After starting his career as a freelance graphic designer, he has studied computer science at the Eastern Mediterranean University in Mersin – where he graduated in computer science and marketing. In 2009 he founded FREEYORK, and nowadays he divides his mind and his time between his daytime job at IBM as a project manager, the management of his editorial project FREEYORK, and the organization of startup events. And he still manages to have some fun!
FREEYORK: the editorial project
Born as a community-driven platform, FREEYORK aims to spread the works and stories of upcoming artists.
Previously, designers and other members of the community used to submit their artworks and their stories, reaching a wide audience of design-lovers. Until a few weeks ago, all the work was done by two editors, plus Sam: just three persons were covering photography, design, illustration, street art, architecture, fashion, and food. Now, content submission is available again for website members, through a newly rolled-out system.
FREEYORK is an eye wide-open on all kind of visual contemporary art and publishes a huge amount of inspiring content that helps artists and studios to get known and design-lovers to find new artists and creative ideas from all around the world.
Unleashing the power of A.I.
FREEYORK’s editorial team has a secret weapon to stay ahead of their competition, and that secret weapon is A.I.
Together with Sam and his small editorial team, there is a kind of cyber-team composed by A.I. tools, whose activities are now part of the magazine’s editorial workflow. Day by day, A.I. is helping the human team to do a better job in content writing, editing, and organization.
“Our current workflow involves usage of three A.I. tools: an A.I. that writes the content of an article, another A.I. that analyses it for grammar mistakes and replaces words that don’t fit into a context, and WordLift” explains Sam. “The first step is to collect some materials on a topic. After finding a few sources, we are giving them A.I. to rewrite. The second step is to analyze what first A.I. wrote, fix grammar mistakes, and replace those words that don’t make any sense. Finally, we let WordLift annotate an article and think of a catchy headline. A.I., unfortunately, is not good at this yet!“
So, basically, there is an A.I. working at each stage of the editorial process: writing, editing, and organizing. Oh, wait! What about human editors? What will they do in the future of the web? Here is what Sam has to say about this:
“It scares a lot of people for their future. Especially those who’re working with numbers. I think that writers that use a lot of statistics and numerical data have a bigger chance to be replaced by A.I. As a perfect example, we can take The Associated Press that is using A.I. to write Minor League Baseball articles. That must be an alarming sign for sports writers. As for FREEYORK, I’m hoping to find a perfect solution that will combine writing and editing in one tool and on the top of that if it should read the text and think of a catchy headline. But nothing ever will substitute a well-written writer’s opinion on a subject. In the future, I’m hoping to form a brilliant team of editors that will write long-posts expressing their opinion on an artist’s work, exhibitions, installations, and so on. Who doesn’t appreciate a well-written article?”
Put this way, A.I. is more an opportunity than a threat, both for writers and publishers. State-of-the-art A.I. is ready to free journalists and writers from boring and repetitive tasks in their work day. What do you do when A.I. is quicker and cheaper than humans to write news and analysis? As a writer, you can focus on critics, opinions, and storytelling: that’s human stuff and no machine can make it better than professionals.
See New York from FREEYORK’s point of view. Isn’t it wonderful?
As a small publisher competing with bigger players, Sam is working on a new business model which will rely less on display advertising.
“I wanted to make WordPress more intelligent and that’s exactly what WordLift does” states Sam. “At first, when I introduced WordLift to the team, they were skeptical about it and stated “Why we need this, tags are doing the same job with a less effort anyway”, but I kept on pushing because there is a huge potential in this.“
Sam is not ready to share the details of his new – A.I. powered – business model, but I’m sure we’ll come back on it to see where this adventure is going to land. Meanwhile, he is seeing WordLift’s effect on his key metrics:
“We approached WordLift while experiencing a decrease in our organic traffic. After a few months using it, our organic traffic reached and exceeded previous figures and it is still growing at a stable rate.“
Our brainy CEO, Andrea Volpini, is analyzing Sam’s data to better understand the impact of our plugin on FREEYORK: I promise we’ll come back soon with more information and insights about it!
Tao Roma promotes personal development starting from ancient Chinese disciplines such as Tai Chi Chuan, Qi Gong, and Taoist Alchemy, bringing them to the contemporary life.
His founder, Oscar Valentini, is a martial art, Tai Chi Chuan, Qi Gong, and Taoism teacher. He comes from Rome, Italy, and his blog Tao Roma is a focal point for the promotion of his work. We asked Oscar what kind of business goals he was trying to achieve with his blog when he first started it, and his answer was quite interesting:
“It was 2013 and goals was quite a strong word. It started by chance, because I wanted to spread my knowledge about Tao wellness techniques. Blog articles and Facebook shares immediatly worked powerfully to disseminate content and engage with people online. At the time, my main goal was to make people curious to experience how ancient Tao wisdom can impact on their lives with a little personal commitment.”
And then, in the end of 2015, Oscar was one of the early beta testers of WordLift. What did it change on the blog results?
“Wordlift was revolutionary: for a while I stopped writing new articles, and worked on my own vocabulary of core concepts, the so-called entities. Then, I edited many of my articles to connect them with those crucial concepts – which where implicit when I first wrote my blog posts. When these concepts were published as web pages and linked to the articles and to each other, they allowed me to build a knowledge graph into my blog. While I was writing, I din’t even get how essential this change was going to be, but then everything became clearer. Now I better understand the importance of a consistent editorial plan thanks to the content organization that WordLift allowed me to see and live into my blog.”
And talking about the results…
“In time, WordLift effect also impacted on our results: I reached more people, who are interested in our offer of activities and courses, and I noticed great improvements in SEO. Today, when somebody calls me to offer a SEO consultancy, I always say that there is already someone working on it, but I never say it’s a software!”?
How WordLift supported Tao Roma with content marketing
Since December 2015, Oscar used WordLift to support his articles with a meaningful galaxy of terms and definitions that could be useful for those who are approaching martial art, Tai Chi Chuan, Qi Gong, and Taoism for the first time. Each of these terms is an entity and is part of an internal vocabulary which helps people – and machines as well, such as search engine’s spiders – to understand the referral context.
Until now, Oscar created 142 entities, represented as linked data in the JSON-LD format thanks our plugin. These entities are linked to DBpedia with the ‘sameAs‘ property and are described through the schema.org vocabulary: since they are connected to the web of data, they inherit some properties from DBpedia and schema.org that provides search engines with the required meaning and context. The more entities he created, the more he reinforced the connection between Tao Roma’s website and its specific semantic domain.
In the histogram below, you can see the 50 most recurring entities of Tao Roma’s vocabulary and discover how many articles and other entities are connected with them.
In the pie graph below, you can see the content classification of the entities inherited from DBpedia. Notice that one of the main topics of the blog is Tao Massage and this can explain why so many entities are classified as anatomical structure.
Got it, now show me the numbers!
Here is a diagram from SEMrush describing the organic increase Oscar has experienced on his blog thanks to the WordLift effect.
The overall results have been impressive and way beyond our expectations. Let’s look more closely at the metrics to understand why organizing your website with structured data matters:
New users from Google (organic search) – Oscar installed the plugin and started to organize the content architecture of his website in December 2015: since then the website received a 42+% increase of new users coming from Google’s organic search.
Pageviews – We went from a monthly average of 5.662 pageviews in September, October and November 2015 to a monthly average of 14.699 pageviews in the months of December 2015, January and February 2016. This is an 88+% increase (in the last three months since writing this article the monthly average of pageviews is up to 17.368 – so the effect is continuing at a stable rate) – this is an interesting metric but as we know, it is way too generic to help us get a clue on what we’re doing right.
New sessions from organic search – Comparing to a benchmark of 26.686 websites worldwide in the sport vertical (with daily sessions ranging between 100-499), Tao Roma’s Analytics showed a +36,22% (80,03% vs an average of 58,75%) of new sessions coming from organic search.
Sitelinks – As you probably already know, guiding visitors of your website is a great advantage provider. These links are displayed on the SERP and highlight the main sections of the website, improving brand reputation and user trust. Sitelinks cannot be added by webmasters. They are the result of a well-structured website and the first thing that proves how well a website is organized.
Dwell time – Three months after the creation of the initial vocabulary, the average time spent on page increased of 17.27%. This metric certifies an authentic interest from user’s side.
Today, thanks to this impressive results, Oscar is looking further and thinking about the next revolution for his website…
“Our website is going to be transformed again from the graphic and UX point of view – moving from a blog look and feel to an actual online magazine, where we’ll see different home pages based on the season of the year and on our calendar of events and initiatives. This flexibility is also a consequence of the strong contribution of WordLift to the content writing and structuring process.”