Automated journalism since 2006, did you know?

In 2010 there was much talk of content farms – search-keyword-driven collections of copy written by low-paid writers and edited by low-paid copy editors. And it became commonplace to see Twitter feeds aggregated and displayed on news media web sites and broadcast media. Still, the boundaries between what must done by humans and what can be done by machines seemed well-established. Humans read, wrote, tweeted and edited; machines aggregated, indexed, stored, retrieved and sometimes tweeted.

But you may have missed two stories showing the inroads automation has made into territory traditionally thought to require human intelligence. […]

In short, machines driven by learning algorithms are taking the place of human editors, and they’re doing a good enough job of it that the Huffington Post purchased Adaptive Semantics to gain a competitive business advantage.

The second story you might have missed is that computers are now writing sports stories! In fact, at least two separate efforts in this direction are under way. At Northwestern University’s Intelligent Information Laboratory, the creators of a program called Stats Monkey claim,

“Imagine that you could push a button, and magically create a story about a baseball game. That’s what the Stats Monkey system does. Given information commonly available online about many games—the box score and the play-by-play—the system automatically generates the text of a story about that game that captures the overall dynamic of the game and highlights the key plays and key players. The story includes an appropriate headline and a photo of the most important player in the game.”

I expect this trend, and the related trend of data-driven journalism to continue in 2011. In particular, I expect to see the area of financial news to be the next one to fall to automated journalism.The recent StockTwits / Yahoo! partnership is the first of what I expect to be many announcements in this area.

Updated 2011-01-01: this prediction has already come true. In fact, it happened in 2006! I learned yesterday from that Thompson Financial started posting automated financial news stories in March of 2006. Here are two more links on the story.

The full story, by Ed Borasky

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