journalists

Google grants almost $1 million to press agency developing robot journalists

The writer of this article is human, but soon you may be reading articles on this website which are written by robots or automation software. 

And who knows, some of the articles you read online may already be written by robots. Over the course of a longer period of time, you’ve almost certainly read something written by automation software.

Companies such as Automated Insights have been supplying thousands of articles a month to a variety of clients for a couple of years. 

And a Chinese company created a piece of software which last year is said to have written an entire book.

Further, Google is now funding the development of software which can write news stories.

Working with the Press Association and Urbs Media, Google’s $804,000 grant will go towards a project called Radar – short for “reporters and data robots” – which is looking to automate the writing of 30,000 “localised” news stories a month.

PA says Radar is intended to meet the increasing demand for consistent, fact-based insights into local communities, for the benefit of established regional media outlets, as well as the growing sector of independent publishers, hyperlocal outlets and bloggers.

Google has established something called the Digital News Initiative, which PA and many other European publishers are part of.

The DNI is a $171 million fund for projects that “demonstrate new thinking in the practice of digital journalism”, and it’s where the grant for PA is coming from.

Where this will lead to is obvious – this writer and many other hacks will be out of a job… it’s just a matter of time.

Peter Clifton, editor-in-chief at PA, said: “This is a hugely exciting development for PA, and we believe our partnership with Urbs Media can be a genuine game-changer for media outlets across the UK and Ireland.

“At a time when many media outlets are experiencing commercial pressures, Radar will provide the news ecosystem with a cost-effective way to provide incisive local stories, enabling audiences to hold democratic bodies to account.

“We have already provided an outline of our plans to some of our regional customers, and they have been universally positive. One described it as ‘genius’!

“Ahead of PA’s 150th anniversary next year, this collaboration with Urbs Media – supported by Google – is a fitting way to show our ongoing commitment to the media partners that the news agency was originally set up to support.

“Skilled human journalists will still be vital in the process, but Radar allows us to harness artificial intelligence to scale up to a volume of local stories that would be impossible to provide manually. It is a fantastic step forward for PA.”

Alan Renwick, chief executive officer of Urbs Media, said: “Urbs exists to harness the power of data and automation to supply important stories across local markets.

“PA is our perfect partner, with the scale, skills and platforms to develop our ideas. We’re delighted that the Google DNI Innovation Fund has selected our joint Radar project to boost local media and democracy.”

At the moment, automated writing software is not quite capable of writing the way human writers can and do consistently – there are still a lot of issues to be resolved.

Currently, the bots are capable of creating highly formulaic short reports based on data – such things as market analysis reports and sports results reports.

But it’s just a matter of time – maybe less than 10 years – before the artificially intelligent bots are more than capable of running entire editorial teams, made up of other AI bots.

And while Axios.com has highlighted data which shows how automation is suppressing wages in the US, suppression is clearly just the beginning of a full robot takeover.

(This article first appeared on em360tech.com and is republished here with permission.)