FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – Robots vs. Writers

By: iCopywriter blogger Alex Dalenberg

Guess what? The writers are still winning. That may come as a shock to anyone who works in the media industry (your humble blogger is himself the veteran of a mass newsroom layoff, even at the tender age of 27).

Old media’s struggle to adapt to digital disruption wasn’t bad enough. But anyone who has been watching the bleeding edge of online content over the past few years knows that the geeks who rule our world are hard at work on the robots that will finish us all off.

Not physical robots of course, but algorithms that can aggregate and even write stories in the place of humans. Statsheet.com is one of these. It automatically writes game recaps based on data. For example, this story about Gonzaga crushing Lewis & Clark State* in basketball this week, was not written by a human. Of course, the writing is, shall we say, robotic.

But, this week, one of the pioneers of this kind of automation — TechMeme founder Gabe Rivera had some interesting things to say this week about the old-fashioned process of curating news. This is via the tech blog GigaOm, by the way.

Rivera’s site, of course, automatically aggregates Silicon Valley headlines from around the Web — and it works quite well. But in the past few years, he’s added human editors throughout the country to help the machines do their job better. The problem is that the algos can’t yet sense when a story is played out, or not truly worthy of the front page. For now, human news sense still can’t be replicated.

Not that this doesn’t mean algorithms and aggregation are dead. The fairly obvious feeling I get from this is that the publishers who will be successful are the ones who find the best mix of automation and the human touch. Excellent content — and how it’s organized and presented — still rules the day.

Which actually isn’t so freaky after all.

* Side note: the human who edited this piece looked a little more into that Gonzaga-Lewis & Clark State bot-originated article. We scanned the article in question, and the Flesch-Kincaid readability calculator suggested that FIVE of the 18 sentences be revised. 30% of the content.

Hmmmm…Can you get bot content for your site? Sure. Will it be a cheaper option for you? Yep. Will Google know if your content was bot-generated? Bet on it – they’re not dummies. Will they penalize you? We think so…are you willing to chance it?  iCopywriter real, live, human writers and editors.

Photo Credit: Sebastianlund