The News Innovator’s Dilemma: Automation Shows We’re Learning

place-name-sign-1647341_960_720.jpgThe news industry overall isn’t known for its forward thinking. We let a little bully named Craigslist steal our lunch money without putting up much fight. We resisted charging for access to our news, only to see people become accustomed to free. We even let “news aggregators” get away with virtual larceny and then claim more traffic than we had — for content that *we* had created.

One area where at least a few news organizations are confronting the Innovator’s Dilemma is in news automation. That’s computers writing the news. This has proven effective for producing simple stories using structured data — a ballgame recap, a corporate earnings story, a weather report.

The technology is rudimentary right now. Sometimes it even messes up simple stories. But the investment that news agencies like The AP and Bloomberg are putting into news automation shows that they’ve learned from past mistakes and are prepared to cannibalize at least part of what they do — because if they don’t do it, someone else will. Others are already, in fact.

Of course, the prospect of algorithms writing the news strikes cold fear into journalists of a certain vintage. Yes, some roles will be taken over by these algorithms. But there are so many other stories out there that require arms and legs and human judgment and emotion.

Let the computers have the boring stuff while we humans go after the Next Great Story.

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