Earlier today, the Associated Press announced that the bulk of its corporate earnings stories will be, starting in July, written automatically. The new project is powered by a company called Automated Insights, whose algorithms will constantly trawl the servers of Zacks Investment Research for new earnings information and then publish stories about those figures in seconds.
The efficiency of these algorithms is quite impressive: In 2013, Automated Insights published nearly 10 stories a second, according to a corporate blog post authored (ominously) by one Adam Smith. These stories were perfectly functional, even if they lacked stylistic inspiration.
Automated Insights has in the past teamed up with sites like MSN and Yahoo to generate content, and Narrative Science, one of its competitors, regularly provides content to Forbes.com. Here is the opening of a Forbes post authored by Narrative Science, complete with tone and sensible syntax, that went up a couple days ago:
Analysts expect higher profit for Paychex when the company reports its fourth quarter results on Tuesday, July 1, 2014. The consensus estimate is calling for profit of 40 cents a share, reflecting a rise from 38 cents per share a year ago.
The post is sufficiently human-seeming, but it’s not hard to imagine, as algorithms produce stories about different subjects, a movement of readers demanding clearer demarcations of algorithm-generated content, not unlike those who want to label genetically-modified foods.