Robot Journalism: The Advent of High Tech Storytelling

by April 11, 2016 0 comments

When Newspoll – an Australian opinion polling brand sacked more than 100 staff members and replaced them with robots, it started a new transition in an era where automation was limited to high-end engineering and medical sector only. This telephonic polling company has hired robopolls for automated polling and online surveys. Surveys will be conducted by Galaxy Research under Newspoll brand.

In 1930, during the height of the worldwide depression, eminent British economist John Maynard Keynes famously warned about “technological unemployment” caused by the discovery of means of economizing the use of labor.

Artificial intelligence and automation strongly hints towards a future in which robots and software are going to reduce the need for human workforce.

With advancements in cloud computing and big data organizations are leveraging emerging technologies — such as Artificial Intelligence and machine learning — to classify structured and unstructured data around unique business and processes. There is no doubt that computer algorithms can produce authentic and factually correct content to attract consumers.

A New Area for Robots

Journalism is the new sector in which robots are being used for generating quantitative content.

Robot journalism may sound very futuristic but there is no doubt about the role it’s going to play in our lives.

The Associated Press made an announcement about using Wordsmith software to automatically generate news stories about college sports. This software has been created by North Carolina-based Automated Insights.

Wordsmith works on algorithms to create content. The AP — which is also an investor in Automated Insights — already uses Wordsmith to generate stories on quarterly earnings reports of various corporate firms. The Associated Press has also announced that it will use Wordsmith, to generate up to 4,400 corporate-earnings report per quarter, more than ten times the number of reports produced by human reporters. News organizations are experimenting heavily with robot journalism, using computer programs to transform data into news stories or multimedia presentations.

For now it is limited to company earnings reports, stock market summaries, youth sports stories and earthquake alerts. Wordsmith is capable of creating a million stories which can be targeted at individual user and their preferences. Powered by users’ data it can provide unique stories which earlier required intensive research.

There is no reason to be worried about the rise of robot journalism as they are purely into structured and quantitative data analysis and not into the mainstream journalism related to human emotion or opinion.

Think about them like an assistant reporter which handles all the boring data figures and transforms them into readable content, which further can be clubbed into your original report.


How Automation Helps

Automation leads to job loss but this is not the case here. On the contrary, automation is freeing up the reporters from digging deep into hard numbers. It will be more problematic for us when a machine with highly developed and ever expanding AI, enters into other fields of journalism like editorials, comparative analysis and human interest stories. If humans, with the aid of espionage and technology were capable of developing the machine which destroyed the German cipher machine Enigma, then I don’t have any doubts regarding our future, where a sizeable amount of human workload will be transferred to the robots.

We already have this intelligent writing software called Quill, which has been developed by Narrative Science, a Chicago based company. It turns numerical data into story and has been used for baseball reporting and company earning statements for Forbes. T. Rowe Price, Credit Suisse and USAA have already subscribed to its services to write in-depth reports on mutual fund performance, which are meant for distribution to the investors and regulators.

Quill is programmed to write structured sentences, paragraphs and pages.

Most of the content produced by these bots is quantitative, thereby, making it an attractive option for finance, health care and journalism sector, where enormous amount of data is analyzed. These heavy-data contents are written after crunching spreadsheets full of sales number, sports scores or stock market figures. So basically it’s about pure computing power skills and the bots are surely going to beat us here.

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