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The Online News Association is holding its annual conference this week. One early highlight was Sonali Verma — senior project manager at The Globe and Mail, the largest newspaper in Canada — leading an absolute masterclass in dynamic paywalls on Tuesday.

The Globe and Mail’s artificial learning technology, called Sophi, uses deep-learning techniques to automate and optimize as many publishing decisions as possible. Sophi, which was developed in-house at The Globe and Mail and has since been adopted by more than 50 outlets across 11 different publishers, helps curate homepages, choose which articles to post on Facebook, and more.

One of the most crucial decisions Sophi makes is determining when — or if — to present a paywall.

Verma walked through a couple of examples. A reader who reads mostly general news and recipes might be less likely to subscribe than one reading a lot of business-related content. Still, Sophi might present this general news reader with a paywall. If they don’t reach for their wallet, the model wouldn’t hit them with the same message again and again. Instead, Sophi might pivot, and try asking the reader to register with an email instead.

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