Associated Press Recruits Robotic Reporter

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

The Associated Press’ new star reporter is a piece of software with a very heavy workload ahead. The AP plans to cover more than 4,000 companies’ financial reports this year instead of its usual 300. The newswire is not planning on overworking its staff to accomplish this goal — it is enlisting the robotic help to cover the additional stories, freeing its human reporters for other assignments. As many publications subscribe to the newswire and publish its content, the robots’ stories have the potential to reach readers all over the world.

Robotic reporters have been previously used in sports reporting to write data-based stories. These robotic reporters already get some use in business journalism, reported Popular Science. Some business publications already use them for stock-related stories. These are commonly quick, short numbers heavy stories that can be written in a very formulaic format.

AP claims that the goal is not to replace the human journalists, but to give them the opportunity to write different stories since the robot will take care of the quarterly report articles. Managing Editor Lou Ferrara said the automated articles would benefit the organization’s journalists in a blog post posted on the AP website.

“Instead, 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,” said Ferrara.

The automated stories will be short news briefs of about 150-300 words. These tend to be some of the shortest stories journalists produce for publications. The company providing the software is Automated Insights, a startup specializing in producing software that creates its own content. The technology does have its limits. It is designed for these quick stories. Longer stories, trend pieces, and profiles still require the human touch.

So far, media reaction to AP’s announcement has been generally positive. The Atlantic noted that robots are often used for areas like Little League games and Fantasy Football drafts, niches within niches of sports reporting. Jordan Crook at TechCrunch wrote that the software would be helpful during a very busy time for news outlets.

“From the perspective of a journalist, I must say that this is pretty exciting. Earnings season is a stressful time for all media publications, as it involves an often unclear schedule of multiple companies releasing numbers each day for weeks at a time. And there’s no standard for those earnings reports across these companies — each releases their quarterly financial summaries in a different format.”

So it seems for now that some reporters are happy to see robots working on some stories. After all, it frees them to work on more complex analytical stories.

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