media update’s Jenna Cook investigates the stories that made headlines in March.

Buzzfeed experiments with print for the first (and potentially the last) time

The news: On Wednesday, 6 March, New Yorkers could get their hands on limited edition newspapers — published by Buzzfeed. The digital publication ditched focussing entirely on online content for a single day and hit the streets of New York City to distribute over 20 000 copies of the paper.

Image courtesy of Adweek

Ben Kaufman, CMO of BuzzFeed, said in an article for Adweek that he thinks of the paper as an “interesting twist” to what the publisher is known for doing online — and that the idea behind the paper is “to put some joy in the physical world”.

“It’s really just a fun little unexpected thing, and some of our best brands and some of our best strategies start with a fun, unexpected thing,” adds Kaufman.

Why it’s making headlines: This story has earned attention for three main reasons:
  1. Buzzfeed, famed for its work as a digital content publication, has taken a pretty controversial step into the world of print.
  2. This stunt comes a couple of months after the digital publisher laid off 15% of their workforce — that’s around 220 people.
  3. They took a GIF and printed it — for real.
Let’s take a closer look:

Firstly, Buzzfeed experimenting with print has to make one wonder why they’d choose to explore this avenue in the first place and if they plan on doing it again. According to Kaufman, unless there’s an “overwhelming” reaction to the paper, March’s publication will be a once-off issue.

Secondly, the digital publisher has come under fire since printing the newspapers. The stunt has left many people asking why the publisher would choose to spend money experimenting with new ideas right after letting staff go due to budget cuts. It’s no secret that print content is generally more expensive to produce and distribute than digital content.

Thirdly, they printed a GIF — how cool is that?!

Microsoft’s Seeing AI has a new feature that allows blind users to hear images

The news: Earlier this month, Microsoft’s Seeing AI app launched an exciting new feature — it can now allow users to explore the people and objects within images.

“This new feature enables users to tap their finger to an image on a touch-screen to hear a description of objects within an image and the spatial relationship between them,” says Project Lead for Seeing AI, Saqib Shaikh.

In an article for TechCrunch, David Coldewey says “because there’s facial recognition built in as well, you could very well take a picture of your friends and hear who’s doing what and where, and whether there’s a dog in the picture (important).”

Why it’s making headlines: Seeing AI has already made it possible for over 150 000 users to better understand their environments. And this new feature is a step further in the right direction for Microsoft.

“It is not that people who can’t see can’t do things and have to use technology. People who can’t see do a ton of things and are incredibly independent. Technology can make life a whole lot more fun and exciting and personal for them. So it’s not just about fixing a problem; it’s about helping enhance the experience for someone who cannot see,” said Mary Bellard, a member of the team behind Seeing AI.

Not only is this a great way to show that they care about the problems their consumers face on a daily basis, the fact that they’re spending the time and money to make inclusive technology is really awesome.

Deepfakes have a whole new face thanks to Morphin

The news: After more than three years of tweaking, developing and testing, tech start-up company Morphin announced that it is finally ready to launch its new ‘turn-me-into-a-GIF’ app. Yup, you read that right — you can now become your own GIF! All thanks to Morphin’s image-mapping technology.

“We believe [that] in the future you’ll be able to be the main character in your own film. Imagine a superhero movie where you’re the main protagonist. That sounded like science fiction a few years ago, and now, with AI and computer vision, we definitely see our tech going there,” says Morphin co-founder, Loic Ledoux.

Morphin allows users to take a selfie, choose a GIF from the app’s library and then seconds later, you’ll be presented with a CGI where your face is in the scene.

From this:
*Image courtesy of Josh Constine

To this:
*Image courtesy of Josh Constine

Why it’s making headlines: While the technology supporting this app is pretty cool (and who wouldn’t want to drop the mic like former President Barack Obama?), Morphin hasn’t said much about how they plan to combat negative, or even harmful, ‘deepfakes’.

Over the last few years, deepfakes have gotten quite a bad rap, and it’s easy to understand why — the technology to create manipulated media, when found in the wrong hands, can quickly turn into #FakeNews.

Ledoux says “Deepfakes brought something pretty negative to computer vision. But it’s not all bad. It’s about how you use the tech to give people a new tool for self-expression and storytelling.”

So we’ll be watching as Morphin attempts to turn the reputation of deepfakes from misuse to fun.

What are your thoughts on Buzzfeed experimenting with print? Let us know in the comments section below.

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To make it as a journalist, you’ll need to do more than be on top of the latest headlines, you must understand the lingo as well. Luckily our article, 10 Digital media terms every journalist should know, has got you covered!
*Image courtesy of Vecteezy