20 Companies Use Computer-Generated Stories to Save Money on Writers

By Jason Boog Comment

The New York Times revealed today that trade publisher Hanley Wood and sports journalism site The Big Ten Network use Narrative Science software to write computer-generated stories.

In all, 20 customers use the software–but Narrative Science would not reveal the complete client list. Hanley Wood digital media and market intelligence unit president Andrew Reid explained in the story: “The company had long collected the data, but hiring people to write trend articles would have been too costly.”

What do you think? The Narrative Science technology could potentially impact many corners of the writing trade. The company has a long list of stories they can computerize: sports stories, financial reports, real estate analyses, local community content, polling & elections, advertising campaign summaries sales & operations reports and market research.

The company originated with two electrical engineering and computer science professors at Northwestern University. Here’s more: “[It began with] a software program that automatically generates sports stories using commonly available information such as box scores and play-by-plays. The program was the result of a collaboration between McCormick and Medill School of Journalism.

To create the software, Hammond and Birnbaum and students working in McCormick’s Intelligent Information Lab created algorithms that use statistics from a game to write text that captures the overall dynamic of the game and highlights the key plays and players. Along with the text is an appropriate headline and a photo of what the program deems as the most important player in the game.”

Here’s an excerpt from an actual Big Ten News article generated by the program: “Wisconsin jumped out to an early lead and never looked back in a 51-17 win over UNLV on Thursday at Camp Randall Stadium. The Badgers scored 20 points in the first quarter on a Russell Wilson touchdown pass, a Montee Ball touchdown run and a James White touchdown run. Wisconsin’s offense dominated the Rebels’ defense. The Badgers racked up 499 total yards in the game including 258 yards passing and 251 yards on the ground.” (Via Caitlin Shamberg)