SCMP partners with the Google News Initiative to build a reader-first, content recommendation engine

Hong Kong, (12 January 2023) – The South China Morning Post (SCMP) launched “Project Hercules” in partnership with the Google News Institute in 2021, a collaborative initiative to build an improved content recommendation engine for the benefit of readers. 

Project Hercules enabled the dynamic creation of reader segments based on demographic, psychographic and behavioural data signals, based on which content recommendations were deployed algorithmically. The founding goals of the project were to build a mechanism to increase user engagement and ultimately conversion to paid subscriptions, both of which were realised over the course of the partnership.

With the support of Google, which provided project oversight and funding while facilitating GCP and offering recommendations on AI best practices, SCMP engineered and coded the recommendation engine sitting at the heart of Project Hercules. Both parties worked together to deploy AI ethics and principles when scaling the project scope to ensure optimal impact by ensuring diversity of data in sampling and disrupting echo chamber formulations.

Learn more about SCMP’s findings from “Project Hercules” here.

“The success of Project Hercules and the learnings derived really tells us that it is possible to build and scale an inclusive and engaging form of responsible journalism for readers that is both data-driven and people-oriented.” Vhanya Barba Mackechnie, Vice President, Product, SCMP notes.

“Echoing SCMP’s vision to ‘Elevate Thought’, our audience will only continue to hold us to higher editorial and content standards as their awareness and knowledge of news affairs grows in parallel with our mission to serve their reading needs.” Shea Driscoll, Digital Editor, SCMP observes. “Access to quality content builds trust and confidence, empowering our audience to see us as their preferred and premier news source as they recognize our ability to educate, inform and engage them on topics close to their hearts.”



The South China Morning Post is a leading global news company that has reported on China and Asia for more than a century. Founded in 1903, SCMP is headquartered in Hong Kong, where it is the city’s newspaper of record, with a growing correspondent staff across Asia and the United States. SCMP’s vision is to “Elevate Thought” and our mission is to “Lead the global conversation about China”. It is the recipient of hundreds of awards for its journalistic excellence, from such prestigious organisations as the World Association of News Publishers and the Online News Association. A digital-first media organisation, SCMP is also home to Goldthread, a content platform with a focus on food, travel and culture in China, and publishes a portfolio of premium lifestyle and fashion titles in Hong Kong including Cosmopolitan, ELLE, Esquire and Harper’s BAZAAR. In 2020, SCMP became the first news organisation in Asia to join the Trust Project, a consortium of top news companies developing global transparency standards for credible journalism.

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