Automated content has a role in the future of news

By Ella Wilks-Harper

City, University of London.

London, United Kingdom


Automation could play a helpful role in rapid mass coverage of breaking news and in covering niche, data-driven topics, according to Dustin Bass, business development manager at Automated Insights.

His presentation at the Big Data for Media Week conference in London summarised a variety of ways in which Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology can help automate certain types of media coverage.

Dustin Bass, business development manager at Automated Insights, discusses AI and the media industry.
Dustin Bass, business development manager at Automated Insights, discusses AI and the media industry.

Automated Insights, based in North Carolina, USA, has built Wordsmith, a natural language generation (NLG) platform that lets companies produce human-sounding narratives from data.

 “We have been around for 10 years helping companies build content and leverage structured data to turn it into engaging, unique narratives at scale,” Bass said. In 2016, Wordsmith produced 1.5 billion narratives, with a wide range of partners including Yahoo and BBC Worldwide.

Bass emphasised that Wordsmith is not meant to be an alternative to human-generated content, but instead it can serve to generate content about topics not usually covered. Media companies may want to produce for certain audiences — such as the bottom end of football league games.

These automated articles are generated based on data and currently are available in 20 languages.

Continuing with the sports example, Bass explained: “You can produce an article, whether it is at the premium league level or youth soccer league level, because you have the data. Sports content can be created with Wordsmith producing 10,000 articles three minutes after the game.”

Bass also outlined how the Associated Press used Wordsmith to tackle a variety of issues in 2013 when it faced challenges in a few key areas:

  1. Speed to the wire.
  2. Full company coverage.
  3. A lack of structured data.

Because of these limitations, reporters and data analysts were only able to cover approximately 400 out of potentially thousands of stories.

Automated Insights used data from Zacks Investment Research to create a unique custom data feed for the Associated Press that required no human involvement.

As a result of the project, “Associated Press increased trading in financial markets, increased liquidity and trading volume,” Bass said.

This resulted in greater breadth of coverage, and allowed Associated Press to focus more of its resources on bigger, deeper topics.

About Ella Wilks-Harper

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