In an effort to stay competitive, many media companies and news organizations are employing teams of robot reporters to crank out stories using very basic templates created by human editors. It started in the financial services industry, where churning out thousands of stories about quarterly earnings reports could be simplified by having bots write the stories instead of humans. And now these robot content writers are starting to show up in other areas as well, raising questions about what impact all this machine-generated content is going to have for the future of digital content.
Of course, the same media organizations that are laying off human reporters and journalists by the thousands are quick to say that the new techno-journalism is only going to improve the quality of journalism out there. Why have a star financial reporter, for example, focus on cranking out quarterly earnings reports, when that same reporter can be digging into stories, investigating the facts, and coming up with some truly sensational reporting?
Moreover, it is true that some AI-powered tools could be very helpful at pointing out anomalies and patterns in the data, thereby alerting journalists to possible stories (or story angles) they might have missed. Plus, for news organizations trying to maintain their coverage of local community events, having robot reporters cover events like high school football or minor league baseball (as they are already doing now) could be an easy way to provide the type of local content that readers want to read.
That being said, there is certainly something to be said for these robot content writers further eroding the trust that people have in media organizations. The reason why some people are still willing to shell out monthly subscription rates to newspapers and magazines is because they are under the perception that the best human reporters and writers in the world are employed by those organizations.
What if they find out, instead, that all the political coverage of a certain local campaign was auto-generated by robots? Or what if a non-standard press release fools robot financial reporters, thereby sending the stock price of a company crashing through the floor as investors rush to sell off their shares after a negative earnings article?
In many ways, the problems being faced by journalists and news organizations are the same problems being faced by digital marketers. In short, how do you make sense of all the data and information out there, and then produce your own content that is actually going to attract eyeballs? The answer to that question now appears to be simple: “bots.” Automate as much as you can with your own bots, and whatever you can’t automate, make sure that other bots can take what you’ve written and run with it.
Going forward, it’s clear that AI technology is going to further blur the line between “real news” and “fake news.” If bots can generate the same types of stories as humans, then you can be sure that some people will figure out how to game the system. So, the next time you open up your social media news feed, just be aware that fake bot accounts generating fake bot stories (as well as “deep fakes”) are now very much part of the current digital landscape.
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