Will Robots Replace Journalists & Marketers?

Automation in all its forms has always been a major driver of innovation. Today, however the opportunity offered by artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and machine learning to all industries has never been more compelling. As most organisations struggle to re-evaluate business models, update product offerings and question how they reach their customers in a digital age whilst trying to fend off so called “disruptive” competition they need to embrace the opportunities automation has to offer. Two industries close to my heart, media and marketing have lots to gain from embracing rather than fearing the march of the robots.

Robo-writers create content

Topping the list of Gartner’s latest technology predictions  is the forecast that by 2018 20% of business content will be authored by machines.

Content that is based on data and analytical information will be turned into natural language writing by technologies that can proactively assemble and deliver information through automated composition engines. Content currently written by people, such as shareholder reports, legal documents, market reports, press releases and white papers are prime candidates for these tools.

So with this technology already in place and in use lets take a look from both a journalist and marketers perspective  into what is going on and how can our talents compete and collaborate with our robot friends.

The reality of robotic journalism

In 2014 both the Associated Press and Yahoo started testing Wordsmith by Automated Insights and now over 12,000 quarterly earnings reports are written annually by this technology platform for the AP alone. The platform is producing millions of articles a week according to the company’s public relations manager James Kotecki and has the ability currently to produce 2,000 articles per second.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 16.01.05

Previous to the AP’s use of Wordsmith it was only able to cover 300 companies from a quarterly reporting perspective but that has now increased to 3,000 companies of which 120 still have a manual human touch to them.

Whilst many journalists at the AP were naturally skeptical to the use of automated technology at least they should be able to appreciate the democratisation of coverage for smaller companies that previously due to time constraints were never given any attention.

That’s OK for earnings releases I hear you cry but what about investigative journalism. Well I admit that the 1972 Watergate story broken by the Washington Post, the 2012 NSA Surveillence/Edward Snowden story by the Washington Post/Guardian or even last years SCA corporate excess scandal  broken by the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet could not be produced by any robot. True journalistic skills are needed to uncover great stories. But with the data journalism  on the rise these new platforms should be seen as a way of focusing journalists on stories that matter and leaving the monotony of corporate and sports reporting to the machines.

The reality of the robot marketer

My day job involves driving as efficient a marketing organisation as possible as the CMO of Mynewsdesk. I am always struggling with the balance between art/ideas and science/data in the pursuit of growth but am convinced that success looks like a combination of the two. In the end we marketers should be in the business of customer-centric marketing where we are creating truly personalized, meaningful and relevant interactions that foster long-term, mutually beneficial, value generating relationships.

In 2012 Gartner famously forecast that the CMO would be outspending the CIO by 2017. Whether this forecast comes to fruition or not with the launch of Google Adwords to 350 customers in October 2000, the rise of the SEO industry, the impact and use of social media, the growth of the marketing automation industry and opportunities offered by both content marketing and  programmatic advertising show we marketers must understand and use technology. If you need any help or to confuse you even more here is the great Scott Brinker’s marketing technology landscape. Only 1876 vendors across 43 catagories to get to know.


The modern marketer has to wear multiple hats. From a data and technology perspective they need to work with customer personas, map a detailed customer journey and formulate a viable acquisition, activation, retention, revenue and referral funnel as well as figuring out which acquisition channels work best, what are your “aha” moments in your product/experience are and decide how and what to measure.

Away from the data though we need to work out how they can differentiate their brand from the competition and much of this should come from translating the vision, core purpose and values of a company into a brand proposition which resonates with the proposed customer base. Data can help you here but qualitative insights and softer analysis is often more powerful.

The Power of Ideas

One thing both journalists and marketers have in common is the importance of ideas. Whether this be a story angle or an exclusive source(s) for a journalist or a creative campaign, content experience or competitive positioning for a marketer these ideas matter.

Whilst I am sure automation and algorithms will become ever more creative as the years go by I still believe we humans have an advantage in emotional intelligence. When you look at the media stories that have changed the way we look at the world and kept our political and economic elite accountable to the marketing campaigns that have built products, companies and causes they all have involved passionate human talent and emotional connection.

My best advice is to make friends with the robots… don’t fear them. See where technology can help you eliminate repetitive and mundane tasks and aid execution. If you are smart this will give you the precious asset we all lack, time. And make sure you use that time to stimulate your creative juices as that what sets you apart from the robots, for now at least.


1 Comment »

  1. In other words, rather than reduce newsrooms, robots would give people more to do. Stories that were left behind because of a lack of available resources could be written and accessed. This wouldn’t be a case of steamboats replacing keelboats for faster travel, but search engines creating far more jobs than they replace.

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