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CNN launches bot for Kik chat app to explain Republican convention to teenagers

CNN joined Waterloo, Ontario’s Kik Interactive Bot Shop on Monday, allowing readers to access CNN stories by interacting with a bot on the Kik messaging service, accessing stories and articles by topic or category.
The bot gradually learns user preferences, delivering stories based on each user’s interests, based largely one what each reader chooses to Save or click Next on.
CNN will be tailoring content accessed via Kik to a younger demographic, as opposed to CNN content that can already be accessed via Facebook Messenger or Japanese chat platform Line, which is in keeping with the fact that Kik claims to be used by approximately 40% of U.S. teens, now boasting a base of more than 275 million registered users.
CNN’s Facebook Messenger bot was developed by content promotion company Outbrain, using its Outbrain for Chat service, which launched at Facebook’s F8 conference in April, at the same time that the Wall Street Journal launched its Messenger bot.
Kik also launched its Bot Shop for third-party developers in April, and already counts Yahoo News, Mic, and The Wall Street Journal as publishers developing bots for the Kik platform.
The CNN Kik bot was launched to coincide with the Republican convention, prompting users to tap conversations offering details about the event, such as its duration, attendees and location.
Mainstream media organizations have struggled, with varying degrees of success, to adapt to new communications tools, including social media and bots.
BuzzFeed has also used the Republican convention as an occasion to debut its BuzzBot, developed by BuzzFeed’s Open Lab for Technology and the Arts, which was released on Sunday, engaging users by asking them whether they’re following the convention live in Cleveland or from their home, and how much they’re following it.
No word on whether anyone has used Kik to develop a Melania bot, spouting original aphorisms that have been borrowed from other historical speeches.
CNN has previously taken some heat for spam originating from its Facebook Messenger bot, which users have also critiqued as being slow.
“It’s a constant learning process,” CNN social apps producer and lead for chat app efforts Masuma Ahuja told Harvard’s Nieman Lab. “This type of storytelling isn’t new in and of itself, but we’re finding new ways of doing it.”
CNN is also assuming that pitching content to a teenage demographic necessarily means that “the audience there is very young and might not understand as much of what is going on in the news and what it means,” which rather underestimates the intelligence of Kik users, who likely wouldn’t bother seeking CNN out in the first place if they weren’t smart enough to be interested in news.
The Washington Post only went live with its Facebook Messenger bot last week, preferring to wait and study how other news organizations were using bot technology before launching its own.
Kik was founded in 2009 by University of Waterloo graduate and ex-BlackBerry employee Ted Livingstone, and now has offices in Waterloo, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, building the company to a valuation of over $1 billion.
Kik was the result of Livingston’s attempt to convince Research in Motion to take BlackBerry Messenger cross-platform, a move that the now troubled company declined at the time and now probably regrets, which prompted Livingstone to set out and start his own company.
Last August, Kik closed a $50 million Series D funding round, led by Tencent, developers of the Weixin (WeChat) Chinese messaging app.

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