By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief
In today’s feature story, Mark Piesing describes the advent of robojournalism — or using automated programs to produce journalistic stories. In the piece, he discusses how the LA Times relied on a piece of software called Quakebot to produce a quick-turn around story about an earthquake — one approved by an editor and then published online.
He notes that many found the story very “readable.” Now here’s a comparison between two stories on the same topic, one written by a “bot” another written by a “human.”
A shallow magnitude 4.7 earthquake was reported Monday morning five miles from Westwood, California, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The temblor occurred at 6:25 a.m. Pacific time at a depth of 5.0 miles.
According to the USGS, the epicenter was six miles from Beverly Hills, California, seven miles from Universal City, California, seven miles from Santa Monica, California and 348 miles from Sacramento, California. In the past ten days, there have been no earthquakes magnitude 3.0 and greater centered nearby.
This information comes from the USGS Earthquake Notification Service and this post was created by an algorithm written by the author.
Read more about Southern California earthquakes.
Seismologists say Monday’s magnitude 4.4 temblor near Westwood could mark the beginning of the end for L.A.’s years-long “earthquake drought.”
Typically, they would expect a 4.4-sized earthquake about once a year in the Los Angeles Basin, but that hasn’t happened for years.
“We don’t know if this is the end of the earthquake drought we’ve had over the last few years, and we won’t know for many months,” said Caltech seismologist Egill Hauksson…
The big difference in the “human story” is, naturally, the “human element” — the quote at the end of the piece. Interviewing someone is, apparently, not something bots can do yet.
Nevertheless, the robowriters are coming and numerous startups are working on various aspects of the project.
- Quill by Chicago-based Narrative Science’s which can chose the editorial angle of a news story.
- Wordsmith by Automated Insights in North Carolina which analyses patterns in big data and turns them into a readable story.
- Yseop’s software mulls over data before turning it into reports in as four different languages and can be adapted in-house
- Labsense in Paris which focuses on the automated writing of copy for large online catalogues.
- London based Arria focuses on an approach it calls Articulate Analytics that uses AI to turns raw data into chunks called messages and then works out the best way to communicate this information.
With so much innovation in the space, it’s only a matter of time before automation turns into customization. Already, as James Kotecki, Manager of Media and Public Relations for Automated Insights, noted:
“The traditional journalism model is to write one story and hope a million people read it. We flip that model on its head, writing a million personalized stories for audiences as small as one. That type of model only makes sense because of automation.”
How soon before these automated authoring tools take customization to a new level, translating “stories” and “journalism” into full-blown book publishing? It’s only, I think, a short leap and a matter of time.
Books written exclusively for you…think about it. A story could be “adapted” by a computer to change out cultural references to make them more familiar to you, change the names of characters so they are familiar, etc…
Interesting? Scary? Tell us what you think in the comments.