Robot journalism supports digital transition in Scandinavia


In Sweden, local media newsrooms are increasingly leveraging automation to give readers a richer, faster, and more complete content service and to free up editorial resources for deep-dive reporting. As of this year, three of United Robots’ clients (MittMedia, VK Media, and the NTM group) are stepping it up a notch by going all in on robot journalism. 

Lately, it seems the world’s news publishing industry is on what you might call a Nordic pilgrimage — at events like INMA’s Media Subscriptions Week in Stockholm in March — to learn about the digital successes of publishers in the region. It’s fair to say the digital transformation has, at least to some extent, been driven by necessity; print decline has been rapid across the Nordic countries.

Automated journalism helps Scandinavian publications fill in the content holes.
Automated journalism helps Scandinavian publications fill in the content holes.

But the success of the digital transformation in Scandinavia also stems from our region’s culture of innovation. 2018 was the year automated content — robot journalism — had a real breakthrough in Swedish newsrooms. The majority of Swedish local media groups, as well as national giant Aftonbladet, publish automated editorial texts daily.

The results have been positive. And, with the continued pressure on our industry, three of our biggest local media partners are now taking some of it off by maximising their use of automated editorial content. They have signed up for data-driven content: sports write-ups and pre-match texts, property sales articles, texts about company registrations and bankruptcies, and traffic and weather news.

Talking to them about the motivation behind the decision, a key aspect has been improving the news services they provide. Says NTM editorial director Nils Olauson: “The aim of this effort is to provide current and future customers with an even better local news service. The robot articles will probably not individually drive lots of traffic, but through personalised sites which show the ‘right’ articles to the ‘right’ users, the robot will help us offer our customers more content relevant to them.

“We know our readers want more instant updates about traffic and weather, helping them in their everyday lives. We also know they want us to satisfy their curiosity about who’s bought their neighbour’s house, who has set up a new company, or how the local football or ice hockey team has fared.”

We also find a big motivator with our local media partners has to do with making the best use of available newsroom resources. With much of the basic reporting taken care of by the robot, editors can assign reporters to more in-depth jobs, which results in more valuable journalism.

Says MittMedia editorial director Carl-Johan Bergman: “Automation is a clear win-win for us — to have technology help us create interesting content, which we’ve previously lacked and let us focus editorial resources on deep-dive coverage when the final whistle blows, rather than just do a quick write-up. The text robot is not replacing our journalists, but rather it helps us prioritise correctly how we use our resources.”

VK Media COO and digital director Marie-Louise Jarlenfors says robot journalism allows the company to offer readers more hyper-local content and coverage without commiting more editorial resources. “Instead, journalists can focus on producing more quality, local journalism and spend time on investigative journalism that makes a difference.”

In a time when journalism is under threat, it’s thrilling to be part of the solution for so many local news groups in Sweden. We’ll keep reporting here on the progress — and results — of our media partners as they continue to deploy automated editorial content around the country.

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