Shock! Horror! Journalists replaced by computers!

by Raewyn Whyte

Oh my god.

What chance do freelance writers have to earn a living now that computers can write articles and short reports, all on their own,  at lower cost?

According to All Things Digital blogger and respected indutry observer, Peter Kafka , the American company Narrative Science has created an algorithm that generates narrative from supplied data — and invested $6 million (US) to develop Quill, software which “generates news stories, industry reports, headlines and more–at scale and without human authoring or editing.”ch is already creating articles found in publications such as newspapers and Forbes, the business magazine.

The software allows automated simple stories to be produced at a much lower cost than even cut-rate human writers such as those found via elance.com  and academicexperts.com. The current rate for software produced stories is US 2 cents  per word for a 500 word article.

Humans select the data on which the generated story will depend, input the data, and lo! the computer generates the text.  Observers say it is impossible to distinguish the generated story from one written by a person.

Not all  articles/stories/reports can be produced this way — they need to be relatively simple and straightforward — the top three types produced to date are short sports reports, financial reports, and market research summaries.

Narrative Science CEO, Stuart Frankel, claims the software enhances what reporters do by allowing them to spend more time writing in-depth stories.

A further application for the software is producing reports from point-of-sale-data. Bean counters watch out, you may be next in the replacement line.

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