The dream of the chat bot is alive at CNN. On Monday, CNN launched its latest attempt at conversational news with a bot on chat app Kik. As with CNN’s previous effort on Facebook Messenger, the Kik bot will let users get the latest stories in a conversational format that’s meant to feel at home on mobile devices. Kik, which launched its Bot Shop back in April, already counts Yahoo News, Mic, and The Wall Street Journal as publishers developing bots for its platform.
CNN launched the Kik project with an interactive explainer feature about the ongoing Republican convention, which users can learn more about by tapping a series of conversation prompts that offer specific details about what goes on at the event, how long it lasts, who attends, and where the current one is being held.
That kind of information might be basic for seasoned political news junkies, but CNN is approaching the Kik project with the assumption 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,” said Masuma Ahuja, CNN’s social apps producer and lead on the news organization’s chat app efforts.
Like Snapchat, Kik has become a go-to chat app for teenagers, who represent around half of the app’s userbase. This understanding means that CNN plans to lean heavily on explainer formats that break big stories down to their basic parts — without assuming that users have been following the news for years prior.
Beyond the interactive features, CNN’s Kik bot will also recommend stories to readers based on previous stories that they’ve read.
CNN’s Kik effort is the latest in a string of uneven attempts at chatbots from news organizations. CNN in particular has gotten some flak for its Facebook Messenger bot, which users have critiqued for being spammy and, at times, sluggish. While publisher chat bots made a big splash on Facebook messenger in April, few so far have lived up to the hype.
Ahuja said that CNN, like all news organizations, is still figuring the best formula for chat bots. “It’s a constant learning process. This type of storytelling isn’t new in and of itself, but we’re finding new ways of doing it,” she said.