In this age of digital media and widespread information, it’s easy to feel a little overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of news out there. There’s always some new breaking news story, pop culture sensation, or miraculous sporting event going on, and nobody has enough time in the day to keep up with everything.
But imagine if a service existed that could find the news you wanted, on whichever topic you were curious about, within just a few seconds. Users of WeChat may no longer have to imagine – as the new WeChat chatbot NewsChatta, from the BBC, delivers exactly that.
Developed by Codulab in Lagos, Nigeria, the bot works by finding relevant news stories based on the user’s search terms, and sending them straight to their phone. It’s as simple as typing in a topic, and receiving the biggest current stories in a matter of seconds.
As well as generating some of the top three stories on any issue, the bot also has a number of other neat functions. Users can view the latest news, trending news topics, and categories of news such as football, Africa, business, and health. Thanks to the BBC Juicer tool, the bot easily draws on news content from across the BBC, delivering a range of stories with ease.
The bot is currently in the pilot stage, so it’s understandably still quite simple, with minimal extra features. However, the developers aren’t resting on their laurels, and have a second bot in the pipeline. This new installment, known as ‘Timerail’, is expected to take a range of the biggest stories on a topic and combine them into a gripping mix of different types of content for users to peruse.
Newschatta can be accessed on WeChat anywhere in the world, but it was created primarily for an African audience of young adults living in urban areas. It’s part of the BBC’s drive to expand its global audience to 500 million by 2020.
In a press release, Dmitry Shishkin, the BBC’s Digital Editor of World Service Languages, said the following about the bot: “Given the massive editorial investments that the BBC is making in Africa, it’s important that digital innovation is a crucial part in that process.”
Hopefully, future versions of Newschatta will include more multimedia options and greater possibilities for automation, such as regular updates on a certain theme. As a pilot, however, it works extremely smoothly and delivers a simple yet valuable service with minimal errors.
The future looks promising for this chatbot, and this initial stage can certainly be deemed a success.
Have you caught up with the latest stories from your phone with Newschatta? Let us know how it went in the comments section.