We hear a lot about data journalism in the media industry. Publishers like the NY Times and Conde Naste have invested heavily in analytics. Newspaper CMS’s like ARC Publishing and CUE are also investing heavily in  analytics to support data journalism. It’s one area that ARC Publishing excels in. Then there’s the slow creeping in of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to write stories.

So perhaps the near future will behold what we term, the Augmented Journalist? Some pundits would have you think that AI and data will essentially eliminate the need for human journalists. Maybe in a few thousand years. But not within the next several decades to a century at least.

AI is quite good today and advancing rapidly. But AI is still only good at one thing. AI is based on algorithms, which are, essentially, recipes. Which are written by humans. AI also requires a vast, seriously vast, amount of data to learn from. And a lot of energy.

This presents a serious technical problem that few publishers can afford to address. Getting and storing that much data and combining a wide variety of data sets and the cost of a data centre to run it all. That leaves it in the bane of the tech giants like Google, Apple and Facebook.

Which means most publishers will have to work with them to drive journalism in some form. Or other companies that can afford all the data, space and energy.

In the near future, a journalist may have a personalized or corporate AI Engine that supports their writing. It scours the internet and other digital channels, corporate reports, research reports and so on, and compiles analysis that also leverages the publishers data systems. So essentially, a journalist is “augmented” by AI giving them more creative freedom. There’s a business model in here (please be kind to send us a royalty cheque? Thanks!)

Right now, the best use has been by the NY Times to write sports reports.

And that’s an augmented solution. An AI Engine works with the stats as provided and writes simple game and series summaries. The sports reporter actually gets to do the fun stuff…write about the strategies, tactics and the athletes, which is more interesting.

What augmented journalism means is using analytics/data and AI to enhance and support a journalist. It’s quite exciting. So they can tell the compelling human stories we actually enjoy the most. It is therefore possible, we may actually see better journalism as a result. And happier journalists. And with better content, comes better advertising and subscription revenues.

What are your thoughts?

About the Author Giles Crouch

Giles is managing partner of Ekspansiv, a global digital business advisory firm to news media companies . A polymath with over 20 years experience in the digital world, Giles brings together marketing communications, digital anthropology and digital behavioural economics for client projects. He has extensive experience with news media and publishing. Giles is also regularly interviewed by media regarding technology and industry trends. He has completed over 300 digital research projects for clients around the world. Giles co-founded the Ice Awards, an advertising creative awards program in 2001. His clients have included, newspaper, magazine and book publishers as well as pure-play digital media companies. He occasionally works as interim CIO or CDO and senior marketing guidance.

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