SPH's local project takes headline choice further

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Straits Times publisher Singapore Press Holdings is to develop software to optimise headlines in a cooperation with A*Star's Institute of High Performance Computing.

The system will build on proprietary IHPC technology for sentiment and emotion analysis, first identifying elements of news headlines that are correlated with article popularity.

The partners will then develop a system that conducts affective analysis to predict the virality of an article based on its headline, which will enable journalists to test different headlines.

Past studies have shown that up to 80 per cent of readers only scan news headlines without reading the full articles, and that the news headline is one of the most important components in a reader's decision to read an article. While many news publishers put out simultaneous variations of headlines for the same article to test reader responses to each, the collaboration aims to isolate specific components of a headline that influence a reader's emotions and the decision to read the full article.

IHPC will work with the data science team of SPH's media strategy and analytics department. Three months ago, SPH announced a partnership with DC Frontiers to develop a content recommendation engine powered by machine learning.

Deputy chief executive Anthony Tan says headlines are a key factor in attracting readers to delve into an article: "This project will help our newsrooms better understand the emotional impact of different words and phrases used in headlines, so we can improve our engagement with readers and guide them towards important and informative news without resorting to clickbait."

• SPH has also announced a new digital image marketplace which will showcase its market-leading Asian contemporary culture and heritage photography.

Photonico is a product of SPH's new digital media product division, staffed by photographers, designers, SPHTech engineers and editorial staff.

Key to the project is the group's archives, which date to 1948, and a network of local contributors, with more than 12,000 images available.

Photonico will be featured as part of the World Press Photo 2018 exhibition from October 6-28 at the National Museum of Singapore. The exhibition showcases the 161 prize-winning photographs, as well as SPH photographers' best work from 2017 and 2018.

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