Zee Media is the latest media organization to try out pushing content over chatbots. Botworx.ai announced an agreement with Zee Media on Thursday to create AI-powered chatbots for Zee News, WION and DNA. The chatbots will be integrated into Facebook, Messenger and Facebook Live for video.

Note that international publishers like CNN, Guardian and Huffington Post also have chatbots on Facebook messenger that operate in a similar manner. Some like Huffington Post send selected stories out for their subscribers to read. Others like Guardian are fully interactive, responding to queries with relevant news articles and clips.

How to Subscribe? 

Users can log into the Facebook Messenger app on there phone and click on the icon on the bottom right for automated messaging. From here users can search for Zee News, DNA or WION. Once the user clicks on the search result he/she will be directed to tap the ‘Get Started’ button, which allows the bot to view the user’s public profile on Facebook.

First Impressions

The process to setup the chatbot is quick and painless. Interactions happen within the Messenger app so the user interface is simple to follow.

The chatbot itself is fairly basic and doesn’t seem to understand any conversational inputs or even simple searches. But it does throw up a simple list of categories that can be tapped to show the top trending stories from said topic.

The Zee News and WION chatbot allow you to stream live telecasts of the channel from within the app, but the video seems to be pulled the publisher’s website rather than being natively broadcast on Facebook.

Searches work fine on the Zee News bots but search terms have to be simple. Conversational questions like “What is happening at the Supreme Court today?” throw up unintentionally hilarious answers like, “No no, Nothing I’m Fine, Absolutely Fine!”

The WION and DNA bots don’t have the search functionality enabled yet, but the feature will be added soon.

WhatsApp as a news distribution platform

BloombergQuint recently launched its own news chatbot platform on the messaging platform Whatsapp. On first glance, Bloomberg Quint’s app is more limited and clunky in its functioning.

Facebook Messenger’s chatbot platform seems far more mature at this point. They are simpler to set up and can natively preview and open content within the app itself.

The Whatsapp based bot forces you to input text manually and puts out links that can be viewed on a web browser. Facebook owns both Messenger and Whatsapp so it’s possible some features may eventually cross over at the platform level.

Shashi adds: Globally, UK-based publisher and media company the Financial Times (FT) launched WhatsApp broadcast service to distribute news and updates to its readers. It said that it will send only one or two stories per day, and “whether you are a subscriber or not, it will always be free (outside of the FT’s subscription paywall).”

In March last year, Broadcasting organization BBC News said that it is using chat applications Viber and WhatsApp to publish its documentaries. In April 2014, it’s worth remembering that BBC had launched a pilot through which it was pushing out audio bulletins and other updates related to the Indian general elections via WhatsApp, WeChat and BlackBerry Messenger.