Imagine a world were no more content writers would be needed because an article writing software would take over? Well, that world will soon be here. Or else, it is already our reality. The Press Association (PA), which is a U.K- based news agency was granted £622,000 ($805,000) by Google’s Digital News Initiative (DNI). The fund is initially for creating Reporters And Data And Robots (RADAR). The latter is designed to generate upwards for 30,000 local news stories a month. Can you imagine how many words, let alone, how many letters that are? DNI is investing £132 million over a three-year period in order to “stimulate and support innovation in digital journalism across Europe’s news industry.”
The project is going to launch next year. And that is not all: a news startup Urbs Media will be working remotely with RADAR. The main task of Urbs Media is to create a piece of software that will turn news data into palatable content.
It is all very great in theory. And if you are wondering how it all is going to work in reality, then here is how. The robot reporters are going to draw on open data sets on the Internet. Then, by using Natural Language Generation (NLG) software they will produce their copy. Well, at least that is what the PA said.
The new article writing software is kind of similar to a model the PA has employed for quite a while in the States. The model was mostly used for financial and niche sports stories.
But let’s concentrate on the new software. The data sets will come from government departments, local authorities, NHS Trusts and more. Those are going to be identified and recorded by a new team of five journalists. They are going to be human journalists, not robots. I mean, at least some work should be done by humans, right? So, these human journalists will provide detailed story templates on different topics including crime, health, and employment.
The PA Editor-in-Chief Peter Clifton calls it all a ”genuine game-changer.” And if you think about it, it really is. The partnership will concentrate on stories that would probably not be written. And that is because local newspapers are on the edge of dying in this massive fourth-estate extinction. But Clifton was careful to add that the software won’t take it all on itself: the human touch will still be needed.
Clifton also believes that the project will benefit reputable news organizations, independent publishers. And let’s not forget about local bloggers, who would also have some advantage. He claimed that “skilled human journalists will still be vital in the process, but RADAR allows us to harness artificial intelligence to scale up to a volume of local stories that would be impossible to provide manually.”
Are we sure about the article writing software?
But as in all stories, here people have doubts too. Neil Thurman, a lecturer in communication at City, University of London, told the BBC, “I find it difficult to see how automation is going to help provide additional coverage of local magistrates’ courts and crown courts. You can’t really cover “local government” through automation because it’s a lot about the investigation, politics, personal relationships, who has said what to whom and so forth: it’s difficult to get that information in the data feed from.”
So, what is our final take? Will robot reporters replace human writers? Probably not. But will they simply support their work? They probably will. So don’t be scared of losing your job: people always need the human touch in everything. Frankly, we need that in real life relationships, too. And when reading articles, we need to know that there is a person somewhere behind our computer screens talking to us. What can go wrong with humans writing articles? They may be carried away with awesome ideas for articles and not concentrate on bringing traffic. But what does really bring unbelievable traffic to your website?