REVIEW 

AI makes the impossible possible

Robot journalists, far from replacing human ones, are enabling publishers to expand into areas that would have been impossible using only human reporters. Take football for instance.

AI makes the impossible possible
Ard Boer’s presentation at the WAN-IFRA Virtual Newsroom Summit.

Ard Boer’s nephew plays amateur football in a local league and, each week, Ard does his best to find out how he got on.

He puts in a few calls, sends some texts, googles and usually gets the info in the end, but it’s long-winded and unsatisfying. Because he doesn’t just want the result – ideally, he would like to know who scored, what the coach thought of the match, to browse some pictures and videos, to see how the result affected their league position and find out about the next fixture.

A clutch of his nephew’s other family and friends would also like it, as would those of his teammates. Small numbers in the scheme of things, but multiply that up over a season and across all the local leagues and it represents a huge amount of untapped interest.

Wouldn’t it be so much more convenient if every match report was available on one site?

As it happens, Ard is the product manager (sports) for NDC mediagroep in the Netherlands, so is possibly in a position to do something about this, but then again, there are 60,000 such matches in his region every year. His newspaper group doesn’t have the manpower to even scratch the surface of such a project. No newspaper has.

But, but, but. The information’s out there. Surely there must be a way of publishing it.

And, of course, there is. Via automation.

Starting this September, Ard will be publishing match reports for every single local football match in his region within minutes of the final whistle. The reports will include the result, a look at the win/loose streak of each of the teams, the impact on the league table, the coach’s comments and pictures of the game.

The production of these reports will be fully automated, based on data feeds from the football leagues, crowd sourced videos and pictures, with the coach’s comments coming in via SMS.

All reports will go live instantly, although each will also be available for editing after the event, if need be. In the early days, human feedback on things like language and tone of voice will get fed back into the system for the machines to learn and adapt. Unlike humans, they only need to be told once.

No journalists will lose their jobs because they weren’t covering these matches anyway. This all-new content stream will drive traffic to the site, build engagement and expose more people to the wider (chargeable) NDC offering.

The robots are here, they’re providing a valuable new service which would have been impossible without them and driving reach, engagement and, ultimately, revenue.

What’s not to like?

(Ard Boer was speaking at the WAN-IFRA Virtual Newsroom Summit this week. Well worth catching on demand…)