January 29, 2015

Since The Associated Press adopted automation technology to write its earnings reports, the news cooperative has generated 3,000 stories per quarter, ten times its previous output, according to a press release from Automated Insights, the company behind the automation. Those stories also contained “far fewer errors” than stories written by actual journalists.

The Associated Press began publishing earnings reports using automation technology in July for companies including Hasbro Inc., Honeywell International Inc. and GE. Appended to those stories is a note that reads “This story was generated automatically by Automated Insights (http://automatedinsights.com/ap) using data from Zacks Investment Research. Full GE report: http://www.zacks.com/ap/GE.”

The stories include descriptions of each business and contain “forward-looking guidance provided by the companies,” according to the release.

AP managing editor Lou Ferrara told Automated Insights that the news cooperative’s customers are happy to be receiving more stories, and that automation has freed up reporters to work on more difficult stories, according to the release. No jobs have been cut as a result of the automated earnings reports.

Automation has been used to generate content before. In June, Poynter reported that AP had been using the technology to produce a “good chunk” of its sports agate for years. Turning data into stories, by comparison, is recent territory for The AP.

Here’s the release:

Durham, NC: Automated Insights, (Ai), the world leader in producing personalized narrative content from Big Data, announced today that its Wordsmith platform is automatically producing 3,000 stories per quarter for The Associated Press – a tenfold increase over what AP reporters and editors created previously. In addition, the stories contain far fewer errors than their manual counterparts.

Since automaton began in July, Ai has worked with AP to add a number of enhancements to the stories. Descriptions of businesses have been included and the stories now contain forward-looking guidance provided by the companies.

“Our customers tell us they are thrilled to be getting more content about companies in their states and regions,” said Lou Ferrara, the AP vice president and managing editor who oversees business news. “Automation has allowed us to free reporters to focus on less data processing and put more energy into high-level reporting.”

Ferrara added that automation hasn’t taken anyone’s job at AP. “Automation was never about replacing jobs,” he said. “It has always been about how we can best use the resources we have in a rapidly changing landscape and how we harness technology to run the best journalism company in the world.”

Starting with data from Zacks Investment Research, Wordsmith uses natural language generation algorithms to write earnings stories.

While the majority of the companies covered by Wordsmith are based in the United States, Automated Insights CEO Robbie Allen says the scope will expand. “We hope to offer reports on some Canadian and European companies soon,” he says. “Automation allows for quality reporting on a global scale.”

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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