Do you like the headline to this article? Yes? Well thank you! No? Don’t blame me, because I actually didn’t write it, Hubspot’s robotic blog topic generator did it for me. While that service is mostly for fun, there are other robotic content services that are really useful and can create full articles in no time.
A 15-year-old me doing robot work
A good 15 years ago I worked extra as a sports editor at a local TV station. 95 percent of the content consisted of a Power Point slide with texts rolling over and over again (great, huh?). My job was to write game recaps, mostly about ice hockey and handball.
Unfortunately, the local tv station was not local at all to me, which meant that I couldn’t watch most of the games that I was supposed to write about. All I could do was to look at the results and statistics from the games and base my texts on that.
If one team shot a lot of pucks at the net without scoring, I would write: “The goaltender was put under a lot of pressure and turned out to be one of the MVPs of the evening by keeping the team in the game with some great saves.”
If one of the stars scored a goal, I could write: “Mr X continued his fine scoring streak. His reliability in front of the net will be a great weapon in the coming games against top opponents Team A and Team B.”
So why am I telling this story? Well, because this exact thing (writing articles based on data) is now being done by robots, but 100 times faster and more accurately. It’s called robot journalism, or robotic content, and works best with data-rich stories such as finance stories, sports stories and breaking news.
5 examples of robot journalism
1. Automated sport stories
So I guess the first example has to be this – the service that would have made me unemployed had it been in place 15 years ago. StatSheet.com is a network of sport sites with statistical comparisons, visualizations, and articles – all automated by robotic content. Here’s the game recap from the 2015 Super Bowl final.
2. A robot writes 1,000 stories/month for AP
The most famous example of robotic writing is the Associated Press (AP) that has automatised their articles from companies’ earnings reports. The company Automated Insights has created an algorithm that transforms raw earnings data into a publishable AP story in a fraction of a second. AP can now produce 4,400 quarterly earnings stories, compared with only 300 such stories using their human journalists. The result is completely comparable with the work of a human. Take a look at this Q1 report from Apple and judge for yourself.
3. 10,000 Wikipedia articles per day
The swedish science teacher Sverker Johansson has created a computer program called Lsjbot that has written a total of 2.7 million articles (and counting). His contributions account for 8.5 percent of the articles on Wikipedia.
4. Narrative Google Analytics reports
The company Narrative Science provides a service that brings out statistics from your Google Analytics and creates a much easier read.
5. Automated earthquake articles
The Los Angeles Times has created a robot writer called Quakebot that can write a full article, complete with a map of the location, within minutes after the outburst, like this one for example.
I don’t need a robot to figure out that we’ve only seen the start of these type of services. I’ll leave you with a quote from Automated Insights’ year in review blog post:
“2015 will also be the year that we redefine the possibilities of automated content”
I’m all ears.