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News Corp's new technology chief seeks to learn from big platforms and social sites while seeking new frontiers

Marc Frons

While the presidency of Donald Trump has been a boon for publications like the Wall Street Journal – the era of “fake news” has left some advertisers and publishers cooling towards Facebook and Google as a platform for brands, notes News Corp's new global technology chief Marc Frons. While Frons wants NewsCorp to learn from big tech platforms, and keep its brands publishing through social sites – the deal has to stack up.

Frons was confirmed in the role of chief technology officer earlier this month after Paul Cheesbrough moved along to the same role at sister company 21st Century Fox. In a recent interview with BeetTV, he notes that NewsCorp is continuing to innovate and seek new challenges, particularly in areas of voice computing.

Frons sees the shift continuing to move towards mobile but “voice computing has also come to the fore”.

"With Alexa, Echo, etc, people are asking for the news, the weather, directions, to shop and we see voice as one of the biggest growth areas. We are on an evolutionary path and the major platforms can help us educate our audience. We see the shift to mobile and the smart phone but voice computing is the new frontier and we see it being embedded everywhere.”

Frons notes that News Corp is now building a messenger bot platform to build Alexis skills and the company is experimenting on how to deliver its own voice-activated content. “You can’t innovate if you are working through a position of fear so we are on it."

Part of the move towards voice computing stems from the fact that publishers have awoken to both the danger of fake news and the promises of journalism.

“In the beginning, everybody was rushing to put their content on Facebook or giving Google all of their content just because they wanted the traffic and the distribution. It’s clear that that’s a model that’s not sustainable. Where news organizations can learn from Silicon Valley is this way of iterating and experimenting toward the truth or the better outcome, instead of having a more ideological approach,” Frons adds.

Frons notes that when it comes to 'fake news', whenever money is involved, there is a criminal element. However, Frons agrees that “advertising and subscriptions and Trump’s presidency has been great for quality journalism. People are willing to pay for quality news and information but digital advertising remains key.

“It’s important for us to stay on these platforms – but in a way that makes sense for our businesses and our readers."