Automated Content: A Brilliantly Bad Idea?

dangerwillrobinsonWe are stumped on this one. According to an article by Andrew Beaujon on, “AP will use robots to write some business stories.”

The article refers to Associated Press’ recent announcement that they are planning to use technology from Automated Insights—a company to which AP recently contributed financing—to create stories on earnings report.

“The software means that instead of providing 300 stories manually, we can provide up to 4,400 automatically for companies throughout the United States each quarter,” AP Managing Editor Lou Ferrara writes in a Q&A with Poynter.

That’s more than 67 stories every business day.

We gather from Beaujon’s article that the software compiles financial data into meaningful bits of content and creates written stories from this input.

“Automated Insights’ patented Wordsmith platform writes insightful, personalized reports from your data. It’s like an expert talking with each user in plain English,” says the company’s website.

This will, according to Ferrara, leave the AP journalists free from that odious chore of reading the data and allow them to identify trends, interpret the data and dig deeper for exclusive stories. Yet this kind of automated conclusion piece—based on the idea that facts tell their own story without salient interpretation—can lead to wrong-headed conclusions that are swallowed without discernment by a content-weary reader base.

We are completely impressed by the whiz-bang technology that makes this possible. Yet we are left wondering why. Who is out there demanding this type of content? And how does this benefit the reader?

Put me down as skeptical on this one.