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Zetland CEO, Tav Klitgaard: Why media companies need to think like tech giants

Whilst publishers have tended to be followers rather than leaders, a growing number of stories are emerging of how media companies are harnessing AI in unique and innovative ways. One of these AI pioneers is Tav Klitgaard, CEO of media powerhouse Zetland Media in Denmark, who explains why media companies need to pivot their thinking amidst the challenges and opportunities presented by AI.

Generative AI is on a tear, with innovations coming thick and fast. Exhibit A? This application which translates videos into multiple languages whilst simultaneously lip syncing the dialogue. If you’re still unconvinced, spend ten minutes wading through the aggregator There Is An AI For That, itself compiled by ChatGPT.

Some publishers are now fearlessly wading in. At FIPP World Media Congress 2023, Rafat Ali CEO of B2B travel platform Skift explained how his team were working on a chatbot that enhances their editorial output and will only be made available to their premium subscribers.

Tav Klitgaard, the CEO of Copenhagen-headquartered Zetland, was at the same Congress outlining his company’s Good Tape – an AI translation tool now spun off into its own private company. Whilst translation tools are nothing new, nearly all the AI translation tools in widespread use by journalists (Otter, Airgram and Rev) are only optimised to work with the world’s major languages, notably English. Good Tape addresses this imbalance by transcribing in Zetland’s native tongue, Danish.

But as Tav explains in an exclusive interview, Danish is just a jumping-off point for the tech, “There are only 5/6 million people speaking Danish, so we’ve always had the issue that all the legacy models are not usable in Danish. Now, with Good Tape, we are transcribing in 99 different languages. So that’s what we specialise in. Our market advantage is that we are very good in Danish. We’re also awesome in Finnish, in Latvian, in Estonian, in Croatian, and many others.”

The secret behind our service is that it is based on an open-source model. And that’s also the secret behind the very, very low price because we did not spend millions of dollars developing our own model.

Tav Klitgaard, the CEO, Zetland

Extending AI’s reach

Not surprisingly, having seen how transformative AI can be for one part of Zetland’s business, the team is now looking at how the technology can be used in other ways. Tav does however acknowledge there may be some limitations as to how it can be harnessed.

We are of course looking at how to leverage AI in terms of journalism, in terms of legal issues, in terms of creativity, across so many things. And that’s the exoskeleton. I like to refer to it as an exoskeleton. I feel that you (have to) reinforce yourself using AI, so it doesn’t take over. 

Tav Klitgaard, the CEO, Zetland

“Yet it’s not something that we feel we are going to focus on in terms of generative journalistic AI. We are going to continue to focus on content created by humans. We can see a lot of momentum going into the automated direction so we are trying to do the opposite.”

We are trying to be smart and to use it in a complementary way to content creation. There has to be human intuition and human intervention in the process.

Tav Klitgaard, the CEO, Zetland

Tav has concerns about how AI might impact on the media in Europe in the coming years. At the same time he also sees opportunities for Zetland, and indeed other enterprising innovative European publishing companies. He wonders if data security could be the issue that gives EU-based companies the edge.

“There are North American technology companies. And then there are a lot of Asian technology companies. And they all have problems. What we’re doing in Europe is that we’re focusing on data security. And that’s why I think that there’s a big, big opportunity for European tech companies to be the alternatives. This is because we are right now seeing a battle between TikTok and Meta. And in the middle of those companies is Europe and our claim to fame is we are actually very serious about data protection and security.”

Tav continues, “I have a very, very deep concern about the ethical dimension of this, and I feel that we as an industry need to step up and be at the forefront of ensuring data security. Otherwise there will be a repeat of what happened with the World Wide Web in the 90s. We were late to the game. European companies failed because they had their heads in print, and didn’t see what the tech companies were planning.”

Keeping up with the tech giants

“As a media business, we know how to combine ethics, design, creativity and tech into products that both make sense financially, but sometimes contribute to a greater good via campaigning journalism. We want our companies to be part of a strong democracy and society to help people to live great and happy lives.

“Tech should be an enabler. As an industry we need to take that stance and say, we’re not lagging behind your big tech. We need to invest.”

I believe that media companies have to be tech companies. In a way they’ve always been tech companies. Even distributing a print paper is pretty complicated stuff and has a lot to do with tech.

Tav Klitgaard, the CEO, Zetland

“Now it’s different, but it’s still a vital part of the media industry to be able to be tech companies. I think that content and distribution cannot be separated. They are connected. The experience around the content is key. We see it as a service and the experience around consuming the content can sometimes be more important than the content itself.”

You can hear more from Tav Klitgaard by watching his presentation at FIPP World Media Congress 2023. We have made this conversation freely available to view below: