The Future Of Journalism: 10 Dollars, 500 Words, 1 Second.

March 28, 2013 8:31 am

Automated Journalism is one of those ‘heavy impact’ ideas that has got surprisingly low press in general. We spotted this company called Narrative Science, that ‘writes’ articles for Forbes – basically some algorithms translate data into articles. And here is the difference: most of the times, unless prompted, you wouldn’t notice the fact that you are essentially reading an output from a program. Why is that so? Because they have picked up a niche where you really do not need humans – describing statistics (e.g. sports, company’s finances etc).

Automating any effort is generally positioned as an ‘efficiency increasing’ move, and is a good thing overall. So why are we worried about this flavor of automated journalism?

The economics of what is being replaced – that is the primary concern. Remember, this is an industry that is already under some very serious threat – some forces so strong, that the very existence of some entities in the industry is under threat. Look at these numbers:

“As reported in the New York Times last September, one of Narrative Science’s clients in the construction industry pays less than $10 per 500-word article—and there is no one to fret about the terrible working conditions. And that article takes only a second to compose.” Source

You don’t need to sit through a marketing pitch from Narrative Science – the numbers speak for themselves. And that 10 dollar number – that will keep moving down as well.

But this is here now, and the industry needs to face it: 10 Dollars, 500 Words, 1 Second. Can humans compete with that?

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