A New Program Will Turn Your Spreadsheets Into News Stories

Upload a spreadsheet and wait for the story to come out.

Tom Eversley

A program used to create computer-generated news stories officially launched today, so enjoy this article because it’s my last one before the bots take over:

Or maybe the way you don’t write.

The program, developed by Durham, North Carolina-based Automated Insights has the potential to change content creation, as it’s designed to increase productivity and output, so more stories can be created nearly instantaneously.

All you have to do is upload a spreadsheet of data and AI will fill in the creative gaps.

The company’s primary goal is creating mass quantities of content. According to CEO and founder Robbie Allen, AI has been working on “natural language generation (NLG)” since 2007, and last year alone, generated over a billion pieces of content using Wordsmith. That was with just 50 employees.

One billion is, without question, an enormous number. That accounts, however, for much more than traditional articles. AI notes that its service can be used for product descriptions — not exactly the most poetic paragraphs ever written — and internal company reports, among other applications. When it doesn’t really matter what’s written, but it still has to be comprehensible, AI very much comes in handy. Additionally, the computer-generated text is optimized for search, making the writing as efficient and effective as possible. Not that SEO is important — Kardashian Pics Apple News Star Wars Trailer — or anything.

The Associated Press, for example, already uses AI to write quarterly earning stories, and Yahoo! uses it to generate personalized weekly fantasy football recaps. At first glance, the flourishes read like real human writing. But when you get the same thing week after week, AI’s limitations become more obvious.

DFW Forever

The reality is that Automated Insights won’t replace human writing, just free us up for more interesting tasks. It makes data more attractive and accessible than it would be from just reading a spreadsheet, but it’s yet to be filled with #HotTake technology. Until then, AI is nothing compared to our well-thought-out, complex, nuanced, trill human opinions.

AI isn’t the only company in the game. A program called Quill, developed by Narrative Science, an artificial intelligence company, can also take data — box scores from baseball games, for example — and turn it into narrative stories. As NPR newscaster Robert Siegel commented during a story about Quill in March, “a human reporter may not take the time to write up a story of little Timmy’s T-ball homerun, but it’s no problem for an algorithm.”

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