Ben Smith’s Semafor Launches an A.I. News Product With OpenAI and Microsoft

Semafor is the latest news organization to play with A.I. as the industry cautiously navigates the technology. 

Ben Smith speaks on stage during the Semafor Media Summit on April 10, 2023 in New York City. Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Semafor

Semafor, the tech news startup founded by former BuzzFeed News editor-in-chief Ben Smith and former Bloomberg Media CEO Justin Smith (not related), is now working with Microsoft (MSFT) and OpenAI on creating news content with the help of artificial intelligence (A.I.). Semafor is the latest news organization to explore A.I. partnerships with tech companies, as the media industry cautiously navigates the technology

Under the partnership, Semafor is launching a news product called Signals, “in which journalists, using tools from Microsoft and OpenAI, offer readers diverse, sophisticated analysis and insights on the biggest stories in the world as they develop,” according to a LinkedIn post by Rachel Oppenheim, Semafor’s chief revenue officer, today (Feb. 5)

Signals will serve readers as a breaking news feed, where A.I. assists Semafor journalists in gathering information across news sources. Human editors will oversee the and fact-check all the information, Semafor said in a statement, and turn it into a presentable format for readers that links back to the original news source. Semafor is led by CEO Justin Smith while Ben Smith serves as the publication’s editor in chief. 

The statement also said the way news organizations have been presenting news for a decade through “stubs” doesn’t meet the challenges readers currently face, referring to the amount of misinformation that goes unregulated on social media sites like X, where publications and journalists have struggled to reach audiences. “They are hungry for the authoritative information that social media no longer provides, and for the array of perspectives from around the world that no single source will give you,” Semafor said.

As the digital news industry tries (and sometimes fails) to monetize outside of traditional advertising models, quite a few publications are experimenting with A.I. as an efficient way to scale up content production. Incorporating A.I. while maintaining journalistic ethics has become a recurring topic, as some publications, like Sports Illustrated, have been called out for publishing A.I.-generated articles without disclosure. Smith’s old employer BuzzFeed, which dissolved its newsroom last year, was also exposed for publishing A.I.-generated articles as bait for search engine optimization before the shutdown. 

Tech companies seem eager to participate in the news industry, though with some challenges. For example, OpenAI already works with Axel Springer, which owns Politico and Business Insider, and Associated Press. But at the end of last year, The New York Times sued both OpenAI and its investor Microsoft for copyright infringement, saying the two companies owed “billions of dollars in statutory and actual damages” by using the Times content for training A.I. models. OpenAI published a response stating the lawsuit is without merit.

Ben Smith’s Semafor Launches an A.I. News Product With OpenAI and Microsoft