The use of robot writers (often called robojournalists) by press agencies and the media is no longer a taboo but a practice that’s starting to become more widespread across the planet. While Le Monde was the first newspaper in France to use robot writers to cover the results of an election, newsrooms in several other countries have already adopted, or even developed themselves, a robot writer in 2015. Among these can be found both well-known major national media sources and the main news agencies. Major newspapers and the American Associated Press (AP) agency rely on robots developed by technology start-ups specializing in semantics and automatic text generation, while some news agencies have begun developing their own robot writers.
Robot writers by country
In April 2014 in the US, AP, accompanied by its partner Automated Insights was the first agency to bet on the automation of certain dispatches. This decision caused quite a stir about robojournalism, considered a sensitive subject and even today much has been written about it in terms of its impact on the employment of editors and journalists. Previously in 2012, Forbes magazine was the first of the media to use a robot to produce stock market articles in partnership with the Chicago based start-up Narrative Science.
In Germany, several regional and local media have introduced robots into their newsrooms. Both the local newspaper Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung and FussiFreunde, the regional football portal launched by Radio Hamburg in collaboration with the company Retresco, are using robot writers to generate summaries of football games. Since 2014, the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper publishes daily reports on pollution levels in Berlin, which are written by an in-house developed robot. In 2015, it was the turn of business newspaper Handelsblatt to sign a partnership agreement with Textomatic, a young start-up launched in 2015, for the generation of stock market reports.
In France, in March 2015, Le Monde also took the plunge and used Syllabs, a specialist in robot writing, to produce 36,000 texts in near real time during the departmental elections. This experience was a world first, both for the context (elections) and for the large number of articles published within only a few hours. Leading on from this experience, Le Monde continues today to produce texts using Syllabs’ data2content engine, to generate content for its new “Données du Monde” section. Other French media such as L’Express, Le Parisien and Radio France have also been seduced by the data2content robot writers to cover the regional elections.
At the end of October 2015, the Russian engine Yandex announced the development of in-house robots to create a new press agency of automated news. Two weeks later, Xinhua, the official news agency of China, presented Kuaibi Xiaoxi, its own “robojournalist” designed to produce summaries of Chinese league football matches as well as financial results. Kuaibi Xiaoxi is bilingual in Chinese and English.
2016 began with a new case of robojournalism, this time in Norway. The Norwegian news agency NTB has announced its intention to establish an editing engine to produce news in the fields of sports (football) and finance.
Who will be the next media outlets and agencies to integrate robot writers into their teams? To be continued!