Here are the principles that support the NQS:

1. Contributing to the restoration of the news ecosystem 

The production costs of good journalism and its economic value are currently uncorrelated because digital publishing tends to flatten everything.

I addressed these issues last October in a previous Monday Note.

By highlighting the most valuable part of the journalistic production, automatically and in real-time, we should be able to create a machine-readable signal of quality that advertisers and news distributors can take advantage of.

2. Lifting quality from the Web needs to be done at scale

Just ten months ago, Facebook justified the elimination of its skeletal team of human editors saying editors didn’t scale anyway. As we all know, it proved to be a bad decision as Facebook was taken off-guard by the wave of fake news preceding the US presidential election. More than ever, scale matters. Facebook deals with 100 million links every day in 100+ languages, while many aggregators who operate at a much smaller scale still collect and distribute tens of thousands of stories on a daily basis.

3. Developing a multi-stakeholders approach

The fates of publishers, distribution platforms, and advertisers are completely intertwined. However, they are in different phases of their business cycles. The business model for news publishing is in disarray. The digital advertising model is a failure for quality publishers with all its indicators flashing red. Large distribution platforms have captured most of the advertising without any windfall for publishers, luring them to one model, then switching to another as they see fit. Regulators (especially in Europe) try to do their job, but without any sense of anticipation nor technological acumen, they find themselves vulnerable to lobbies defending their own short term interests.

Here is how the three groups could benefit from the NQS

1. Publishers…

…need to highlight the most value-added part of their production. Even for noted news organizations, not all stories carry the same value. A large part of the news coverage is compulsory as it is part of the “basic” feed. A smaller chunk is the result of a genuine journalistic effort, whether it entails assigning several reporters to a story, sending someone in the field, or maintaining a network of correspondents and specialists. As of today, there is no automated system able to skim these types of content, whether it is text, video, visual stories, or data-driven treatments. These elements should be able to carry a higher advertising value and/or be part of premium subscription packages. Selecting quality stories could also vastly improve the relevance of recommendation engines and user engagement.

2. News distributors and aggregators…

…will also be able to enhance the value of their inventory and reinforce audience loyalty. They, too, have an economic interest in separating the chaff from the wheat: Currently, their income relies on super-low CPMs based on the lowest common denominator of their stream of news.

3. The advertising industry…

…could also leverage NQS to increase their revenue by raising the price of ads displayed next to a content deemed qualitative. When presenting the NQS project to multiple interlocutors over the last months, I’m always asked the same question: Why should advertisers and media buyers be interested in any notion of quality? Here are my answers:

Finally, the public will also benefit from a cleaner editorial environment as NQS should contribute to making news quality more visible and accessible while reducing the amount of fake news. Also, by assigning a quality score to the entire editorial chain, NQS will be able to triangulate on suspicious news providers.

Partners of the NQS Project

In the fall, I expect to announce other key supports, including an agreement with a major US-based ad mobile platform.

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