EL PAÍS launches new ‘robot’ message service for Twitter

Readers can now use social media platform to receive the news they want, when they want it

A Twitter user consults the news on the new app.
A Twitter user consults the news on the new app.

Quietly and consistently, new technologies are slowly laying the foundations for a new era in the media, one that leaves the days of mass communication behind. Social networks such as Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest, are moving away from the one-way supply of content of the past in favor of direct communication with users.

This change of paradigm is having a profound effect on media outlets, and EL PAÍS – the world’s leading Spanish-language newspaper – is no exception.

Always innovative, EL PAÍS has now launched a personalized, Spanish-language-only message application for Twitter. The result, developed by tech company Audiense, is a robot that interacts with readers using a set of pre-established criteria.

Newspapers no longer control the flow of information and partnerships with social media firms are essential

This robot can’t carry out complicated, autonomous conversations. Rather, its job is to inform. It does so by sending information about the subjects that most interest a reader, and all within the Twitter environment.

Accessing the service

To access the easy-to-use service, you only need to send a private message – the word "Hola" is enough – to the EL PAÍS Twitter account, @elpais

You will then be offered a list of subject areas that you wish to received notifications about. This covers everything from culture and sport, to politics and international news. Once selections are made, you can select a specific time range during which you wish to receive these alerts – say, from 9am to 6pm.

Once you have set up the service, notifications will be received as private messages via Twitter. You can cancel the service at any time by selecting “gestionar suscripciones” (manage subscriptions) from the menu options.

A new era

EL PAÍS is celebrating its 40th birthday this year. When it was founded, the internet didn’t exist and the only way to bring people the news was via print publications and television and radio. Little changed when EL PAÍS went online in 1996, with the website simply a place where online readers could access the news.

With the new Twitter service readers can choose what stories they want and when.
With the new Twitter service readers can choose what stories they want and when.

This is why the homepages of newspapers are so important. They are, in effect, the digital equivalent of the front page of a print edition, a place where editors choose the key stories and images of the day.

A lot of resources go into creating these homepages, but more and more people are now accessing the news from search engines or social media platforms, or services such as WhatsApp. As a result, half of the readers that visit to the sites of the world’s biggest newspapers arrive from places other than their homepages.

The truth is that media outlets no longer control the distribution of news stories. The logical next step, therefore, for newspapers that are leading the digital revolution – papers such as The New York Times, The Guardian, Die Welt or EL PAÍS – is to create partnerships with the companies behind social media platforms: these are companies that know their users and know how to reach them.

Back in July, EL PAÍS launched a Facebook robot allowing our readers to decide what stories they wanted to hear about from us. Now, we have this companion robot for Twitter.

Just a decade ago, all of this seemed like science fiction. Now it is the way forward for media outlets as we identify our readers, ask them what they are interested in, and predict when they are going to read the news. There is no other option – the personalization of news is not a thing of the future. It is already here.

English version by George Mills.


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