Notice anything peculiar about this CNBC story? Or this one on NBC News? Or here on Fox Business? Yes, they are all culled from the Associated Press and are all on financial reports, but, what you may not have noticed is that they don’t have a byline. Instead, they all have a little disclaimer at the bottom that reads, “This story was generated by Automated Insights using data from Zacks Investment Research.”
That’s right. These articles – and scores more – were written with no human involvement whatsoever. We are officially welcoming the era of robot reporters.
Automated Insights (which was recently acquired by Vista Equity Partners and will be a subsidiary of STATS LLC) developed a platform that automatically turns financial data into AP news articles.
The platform is designed for scale… able to produce 2,000 articles per second if necessary. And, the AP is already realizing the benefits of that production capability, now cranking out 3,000 reports each quarter (up from 300). That’s 3,000 reports that actual reporters don’t have to worry about covering in the rapid way financial reports require, leaving them to focus on the bigger picture and other newsworthy issues.
The program actually began last summer and, at that stage, every story still had a human review element to it. But, full automation started in October, 2014. Yet, according to Automated Insights, they’re not going to put any journalists out of work… at least not any “decent journalists.”
Real journalists are able to bring creativity, make connections and in their writing. Something a robot reporter could never do. But, it does beg the question of how far this automation will go… Will automated journalism extend beyond financial news to other types of stories? Will they become editors / proof readers for human-generated stories? Will there be calculated SEO improvements? Will the robot reporters get bylines or even beats? Will they eventually be able to inject style into their writing?
And, as PR pros, will we have to someday pitch a robot?! Perhaps an extreme case, but food for thought…