Brian Fuller's blog on the media, marketing and content creation

Computerized reporting, part 2

Posted on | August 24, 2006 | No Comments

Internally, there’s a little hub-bub over the FT story mentioned in yesterday’s post.

Our man in the Silicon Valley wrote to say

To me, it’s a disturbing trend. Why hire more journalists when you can save costs and let HAL do it. Computers can’t read between the lines — yet. But one can read the handwriting on the wall…

My take: If you’re trading on information generated by a computer that’s reading a company press release, you’re a dope to begin with and market forces will demonstrate your stupidity to you in a blunt and brutal way. Generating content (I use that word purposefully) using a computer to translate press releases isn’t bad in and of itself.

For instance, if I had a news site and exploited this technology, I’d use for info-granules… “Atmel today fired its CEO.” No background, no context, just the facts. The responsibility of the reporter is to spin cycles on why this is happening. A computer at least in the coming years can’t tell you why something is happening or really what’s important about what is happening. You’ll notice in the story cited as an example that the contextual parts of it are clearly programmed in to be compared with other numbers… that’s a simple computing problem solved.

The computer version falls short because its contextual ability is severely limited. in this case, the second quarter numbers (something that occured in the past), beat other numbers. But if you’re a human reporter doing the story and you know that the company’s top distributor filed for bankruptcy, you’re going to allow the investor to act on that information in a much different way.

There is no doubt that “routine” information will become computerized. But cultures (even as homogenized in their news consumption as America’s) cannot function alone on infinite amounts of “data” … they smartest people yearn to know why something is happening, to connect the dots. so in a sense the stuff that we and others produce (highly focused, context-laden information) should become much, much more valuable over time.

That’s my optimistic rant for the day.

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No Responses to “Computerized reporting, part 2”

  1. Jeff H.
    August 30th, 2006 @ 1:11 pm

    Good, scary report, Brian. What about the Photoshopping-like advances and trespasses lately?

    Blogged on it today:

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