Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. 24/7 Space News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

'Bots' step up for 2016 election news coverage
By Rob Lever
Washington (AFP) Nov 5, 2016

If you're reading about the US election, some of that news is likely to come to you from a "bot."

Automated systems known as "bots" or "robo-journalism" have been around for years, but they are playing a bigger role in coverage this year amid technology advances and stretched media resources.

The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, NBC, Yahoo News and the non-profit Pro Publica are among news organizations using automated technology or messaging bots for coverage in the runup to Tuesday's vote or on election night.

News organizations are increasing use both of systems which employ algorithms to create text from data, and of automated "bots" delivering updates to smartphones.

The New York Times bot on Facebook Messenger launched earlier this year uses short dispatches from reporter Nick Confessore, and allows users to interact to get detailed bot-driven news updates or polls.

"This is a natural follow-on to what we have been doing in conversational journalism," said New York Times product director Andrew Phelps.

Those signing up for the bot receive periodic short messages such as, "Hey it's Nick. The race took a swerve this weekend."

Confessore said it was challenging to find the right formula for "a really short form of storytelling," in a text message, but noted that the bot allowed readers to "drill down further" to get more details.

- Meeting people on platforms -

Phelps said bot usage has been "in six figures" with an audience that is younger and more global than Times readers.

"It's an effort to meet people on messaging platforms," he said.

"We wanted to make it more personal, more interactive, to allow readers to feel more connected to the journalists themselves."

While bots offer no immediate monetization, it can helps bring more people to the newspaper's apps and website.

"This gets at the heart of relationship building," Phelps said.

The Washington Post meanwhile has its own bot using a robot icon, and separately will be using artificial intelligence technology to update dispatches on election night.

The Post, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, developed the system called Heliograf that will help create hybrid human- and computer-generated stories.

Heliograf allows the Post "to create stories that are better than any automated system but more constantly updated than any human-written story could be," said Jeremy Gilbert, director of strategic initiatives at the newspaper.

BuzzFeed experimented with its "BuzzBot" on Messenger during the 2016 political conventions as part of an effort to better connect with readers and participants at the events.

Amanda Hickman, who heads the BuzzFeed Open Lab, said bots offer "a one-to-one relationship which gives us the opportunity to let people fine-tune the product they want."

- Turning data into stories -

Algorithmic systems which turn data into news stories have been used for several years, mainly for routine corporate results and minor league sports, but are now playing a role in election coverage.

The nonprofit news site ProPublica's election data bot, created with Google News Lab, updates every 15 minutes with election forecasts, campaign finance reports, Google Trends and other data.

Another nonprofit called the PollyVote Project delivers similar dispatches based on poll results and other data.

"Every time we get new data we create an automated news item," said Andreas Graefe, a fellow at Columbia University's Tow Center for Digital Journalism who is leader of the project funded by the Tow Center and Germany's LMU Munich University.

"We can publish articles seconds after we receive the data, and we can do it in an unlimited amount."

Graefe said several studies in Europe have shown that readers cannot tell the difference between a human- or computer-generated news article.

"When you ask people how readable a story is, they rate the human article better, but when you ask them how credible it is, the computer is better," he said. "We don't really know why."

Damian Radcliffe, a University of Oregon professor who follows automated journalism, said the trends over the current election season highlight gains made with technology.

"Bots and automation are increasingly becoming a part of how journalism is produced and content is being consumed," he said.

Radcliffe noted that automated journalism has moved beyond simple formulaic content to projects such as the Los Angeles Times "homicide report" covering every murder victim and its "quakebot" which delivers breaking news on earthquakes.

Radcliffe said many news organizations should look at these technologies even when resources are tight.

For election coverage, "they provide and opportunity to publish information more quicky than humans can," he said.

While bots are not likely to replace reporters anytime soon, "they can free people up or allow parts of newsroom to do other things that could be valuable," Radcliffe said.



Comment on this article using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
All about the robots on Earth and beyond!

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
Robotic tutors for primary school children
Washington DC (SPX) Oct 28, 2016
The use of robotic tutors in primary school classrooms is one step closer according to research recently published in the open access journal Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience. Dr Imbernon Cuadrado and his co-workers at the Department of Artificial Intelligence in Madrid have developed an integrated computational architecture (ARTIE) for use with software applications in schools. "Th ... read more

Weightless tourism just 4 years away

BRICS Space Agencies Sign Memorandum on Cooperation in Space Exploration

Clearing the Air in Space

Home is Where the Astronaut Is

Aerojet Rocketdyne completes CST launch abort engine hot fire tests

NASA Uses Tunnel Approach to Study How Heat Affects SLS Rocket

SpaceX Aims to Resume Falcon 9 Flights in 2016, Blames Helium Tank for Explosion

Raytheon gets $174 million Hypersonic Air-Breathing Weapon contract

Mars rover confirms 'Egg Rock' is fallen iron-nickel meteorite

Unusual Martian region leaves clues to planet's past

A record of ancient tectonic stress on Mars

Curiosity Mars Rover Checks Odd-looking Iron Meteorite

Kuaizhou-1 scheduled to launch in December

Nations ask to play part in space lab

China launches first heavy-lift rocket

China to launch Long March-5 carrier rocket in November

ISRO's World record bid: Launching 83 satellites on single rocket

Shared vision and goals for the future of Europe in space

SSL delivers Sky Perfect JSAT satellite to Kourou

Dream coming true for ISS-bound rookie French astronaut

Trace metal recombination centers kill LED efficiency

Controlling the properties of matter in two-dimensional crystals

Lehigh scientists fabricate a new class of crystalline solid

Establishing an advanced bonding technique for tungsten and copper alloys

What happens to a pathogenic fungus grown in space?

How Planets Like Jupiter Form

Giant Rings Around Exoplanet Turn in the Wrong Direction

Preferentially Earth-sized Planets with Lots of Water

Mystery solved behind birth of Saturn's rings

Last Bits of 2015 Pluto Flyby Data Received on Earth

Uranus may have two undiscovered moons

Possible Clouds on Pluto, Next Target is Reddish

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement