Credit: Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay

This month, Swedish tech company United Robots delivered its 1 millionth article written by a robot journalist.

By comparison, the New York Times would need 11 years to publish the same number of articles.

Launched just three years ago, United Robots uses artificial intelligence and natural language generation to produce publishable news content from large datasets, mainly covering local sports, property sales and business.

"Robots are good at generating volumes of articles from structured data sets - humans could do that too, but not at the speed and volume that robots do," said Cecilia Campbell, product and market officer at United Robots.

This allows for coverage of football matches or property sales even in remote areas with no reporters. Robots also help local media who do not have enough reporters to do the legwork to cover issues that matter to hyperlocal communities.

Many fear, however, that the the rise of the robot will mean the end of human local journalists altogether. The truth is that the number of local reporters has been steadily declining for years, and it has more to do with difficulties to monetise local news that with the use of automated content.

"Local media no longer cover local sports below a certain level in the league system," said Campbell.

"In most cases, the choice is not between a well-written text by a journalist, or an automated article produced by a robot. The choice is between a robot text, or no text at all."

The ultimate judge here is the audience and, by the looks of it, readers do not really mind. In a small survey of 102 people by MittMedia, the founder of United Robots, 68 percent of respondents said they did not even realise the article was written by a robot.

By automating the writing of editorial from big data sets, Campbell explained, there is no limit to the volume of articles a newsrooms can publish. The key is to do something useful with what they get.

First of all, automated content allows local media to cover entire topics such as all lower football leagues in a specific region.

They can also create new websites populated with this content, such as Klackspark.com, which is a football destination for Swedish county Östergötland created by a local media group. The website covers from the top flight league Allsvenskan, right through to division six.

Byline: "Östgöta Media's text robot". An article generated by a football fixture in the Swedish sixth division

New products also mean the brands have more ad inventory or sponsorships to sell to advertisers.

More hyperlocal content can also help attract new audiences and convert users into paying subscribers - MittMedia has seen a subscription conversion rise of 40 per cent since using the sports bots. This content also generates higher levels of engagement once readers become subscribers which is important for subscriber retention.

The advantage of United Robots is that it only works with structured datasets, as opposed to scraping data from all over the Internet.

"So if it's not in the data, it doesn't get written, which means very little risk of inaccuracies," concludes Campbell.

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