Tronc’s Faltering Age of the Machines

Wall Street Journal report suggests there has been a lot less machine learning than promised

Critics of Tronc chairman Michael Ferro have long alleged that he tends to throw out visionary ideas that later fall by the wayside. Today’s Wall Street Journal report about apparent rising tensions between Ferro and fellow major-piece shareholder Patrick Soon-Shiong would seem to bear that out.

From the very end of Lukas I. Alpert’s piece:

At the time of Dr. Soon-Shiong’s original investment, the tie-up was heralded as a major opportunity to put the doctor’s artificial intelligence and machine vision patents to use in newsrooms as part of the company’s digital transformation.

But efforts to use the doctor’s technology have long since fizzled, insiders say.

In one example that may corroborate this insider view, last summer on CNBC, Ferro said he wanted to start publishing 2,000 videos a day using artifical intelligence. And here’s how an earlier May 2016 article in the L.A. Times titled “Is Billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong Tribune Publishing’s White Knight?” framed that heralding:

The announcement of Soon-Shiong’s investment in Tribune Publishing was accompanied by a notice that the company had reached an agreement with one of Soon-Shiong’s companies to license more than 100 technology patents and to produce video at his NantWorks firm’s subsidiary, NantStudio. …

NantWorks’ website says the Nant name comes from the Apache word “nantan,” which means leader or “he who speaks for the people.”

We’ve also been keeping an eye on the domain, purchased by Tronc some time ago for $1.2 million. The New York Times reported last summer that plans to use it as a gateway for social-influencer created content and viral items had been “paused.” At press time, the website remains “Coming Soon.”