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Is automated content the future?

A BBC report on the future of news, published a few months ago, concluded that within 10 years 90 per cent of all news will be automated and written by software. The story ignited a debate the role of so called ‘robot journalists’ and whether they would put their human counterparts out of jobs.

Someone who is excited about the potential of automated journalism, and sees it as complimentary to what humans create is Wolfgang Zehrt, founder and CEO of Data Driven News Agency Germany, who spoke today at FIPP London.

He predicts that the BBC is right and that a huge amount amount of content in the future will be automated, but that it will be of a certain type and in certain sectors. 

In his presentation at FIPP London he began by stressing how important data has become to the media.

Wolfgang argues that there is now so much data being created and that software can unpick it much faster and more effectively than humans. Computers are also running all of the time and don't need breaks like humans. Also the software can produce content in any language.

Wolfgang then delivered his four steps to automated content.

  1. The first step is the identification of the data source. There are lots of unexplored data sources, for example data generated by elections and also regional data that is never published.
  2. The second step is getting data on board - building a data interface - and then using this to see if there is a story that can be developed.
  3. Thirdly building a data model - the integration of important facts, what does the publishing software need to look for?
  4. Finally generating the text - this is only 20 per cent of the work and costs are coming down. As Wolfgang explains ‘it is not a miracle any more.”

Wolfgang then ran through some of the scenarios in which automated content can be used today. 

He said that key areas are sports reports, weather, finance and traffic. Sometimes the two data sources can be combined to find stories - such as traffic and weather. 

Wolfgang then talked about how important soccer is to automated content. His company has recently done a large deal to create soccer reports from media companies including, for the first time, print media.

“Football generates lots of incoming data,” he added. “The hard bit is finding out what is important and then using the software to look at data and write an article about the game with the most interesting focus.”

Another area where Wolfgang thinks automated content can play an important role in the near future is in the car industry. Data such as ‘which is the best seller?’ ‘what has the most resale value?’ ‘who is buying the car?’ can create fascinating stories which can be used by content marketers as well.

Finally Wolfgang concluded by saying the content could be “published on all platforms directly. The word count is irrelevant it can be 10 words or 2,000.”

Also that from summer a completely automated news portal, the first of its kind, is to be produced in Germany.

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