Matt Carlson has written an interesting piece of research (£) into ‘The Robotic Reporter’: namely, automated journalism where articles are written by algorithms. His interest lies largely in the “technological drama” of competing narratives and cultures – but along the way he identifies some developments and implications which appear in the minority of reports beyond those recurring stories of “augmentation or elimination” (of journalists’ jobs), but which may be more interesting. By way of background here, it’s worth emphasising that automated reporting is already playing a significant role in the news industry, with AP announcing last year that “software will write the majority of its earnings reports”. Last year also saw the publication of research that showed that people couldn’t tell the difference between articles written by journalists, and articles written by software.
Laker says the ever increasing demand for video content makes him confident about the space he’s playing in. “It’s not about people preferring video over text — it’s about some people preferring video over text,” he says. “Even if only 10 percent of people would rather watch a video summary, then this is very viable.” (Note that, in the Guide video above, the narrator has trouble catching the emphasis on the some in Laker’s quote; a robot would have fared even worse.) But he’s not the only one that thinks so. Wibbitz is just one of the several companies that’s been working on perfecting the text-to-video transformation for longer than Guide. (The Wibbitz team, based in Tel Aviv, said they didn’t want to comment for this story.) Also experimenting with cheap, viral, mobile video is NowThis News, a company which recently received a major investment from NBC and which is betting on humans over algorithms. And, of course, there’s the ever bizarre but not-to-be-laughed-off Next Media Animation in Taiwan, and its corresponding partnership with Reuters. With so many ad dollars in video, it’s only going to get harder to stand out in this field.