Media & PR

The robots are coming: first sports, now business stories written by machines

First it was sports reporting:

Every 30 seconds or so, the algorithmic bull pen of Narrative Science, a 30-person company occupying a large room on the fringes of the Chicago Loop, extrudes a story whose very byline is a question of philosophical inquiry. The computer-written product could be a pennant-waving second-half update of a Big Ten basketball contest…

And the articles don’t read like robots wrote them: “Friona fell 10-8 to Boys Ranch in five innings on Monday at Friona despite racking up seven hits and eight runs. Friona was led by a flawless day at the dish by Hunter Sundre, who went 2-2 against Boys Ranch pitching. Sundre singled in the third inning and tripled in the fourth inning … Friona piled up the steals, swiping eight bags in all.”

Now it is business news:

AP … plans to use automation technology from a company called Automated Insights to produce stories about earnings reports. The software means that “instead of providing 300 stories manually, we can provide up to 4,400 automatically for companies throughout the United States each quarter,” AP Managing Editor Lou Ferrara writes in a Q&A.

That does not mean job cuts or less coverage, Ferrara writes: “If anything, we are doubling down on the journalism we will do around earnings reports and business coverage.” Instead, he writes, “our journalists will focus on reporting and writing stories about what the numbers mean and what gets said in earnings calls on the day of the release, identifying trends and finding exclusive stories we can publish at the time of the earnings reports.”

The data for the stories will come from Zacks Investment Research. AP has used automation to produce a “good chunk” of its sports agate for years, Ferrara writes. In May, AP said it had agreed to sell its stake in STATS LLC, which produces sports data. AP contributed to a recent financing round for Automated Insights.

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