In 15 years time, more than 90 percent of news will be written by an algorithm, predicts Kristian Hammond, the CTO and cofounder of Narrative Science.
This robonews tsunami, he insists, will not wash away the remaining human reporters who still collect paychecks. Instead the universe of newswriting will expand dramatically, as computers mine vast troves of data to produce ultracheap, totally readable accounts of events, trends, and developments that no journalist is currently covering.
That’s not to say that computer-generated stories will remain in the margins, limited to producing more and more Little League write-ups and formulaic earnings previews. Hammond was recently asked for his reaction to a prediction that a computer would win a Pulitzer Prize within 20 years. He disagreed. It would happen, he said, in five.
Hammond believes that as Narrative Science grows, its stories will go higher up the journalism food chain—from commodity news to explanatory journalism and, ultimately, detailed long-form articles. Maybe at some point, humans and algorithms will collaborate, with each partner playing to its strength. Computers, with their flawless memories and ability to access data, might act as legmen to human writers. Or vice versa, human reporters might interview subjects and pick up stray details—and then send them to a computer that writes it all up. As the computers get more accomplished and have access to more and more data, their limitations as storytellers will fall away. It might take a while, but eventually even a story like this one could be produced without, well, me. “Humans are unbelievably rich and complex, but they are machines,” Hammond says. “In 20 years, there will be no area in which Narrative Science doesn’t write stories.”
For the new mobile reading, context becomes a cluster of these factors. Flipboard’s Mike McCue highlights a few of these in an interview with the Los Angeles Times‘ David Sarno:
It’s a mix of what’s going on in the world and what’s going on in your world, fused together. And it might seem weird that I’m looking at a picture of my daughters, and then the next flip I’m reading a story about Iran. But to me as a reader, when I’m standing in line waiting to get my coffee, those things are what I care about.
In order to build for this world, media companies, software developers, advertisers and even users have to think about context differently.
This development with new ways of gathering information and news that make sense to you, e g by acknowledging the reader’s context, is really an important step forward for the media industry, but maybe even more important for us as consumers.
Since I started to use Flipboard and Zite on my iPad I have changed my reading habits dramatically. It really provided much more value than my RSS-feeds ever did. Recently we ended our subscription to the dead tree version our local newspaper, and I would like to attribute that rather radical step (after 25 years of subscription), to a changed view on how to get access to and read news due to these context aware apps.
In the bigger perspective I think the emergence of these apps will open up a whole new way of thinking about how we access news and media, which in turn will speed up the transformation of traditional broadcast media model.
Our latest report, Americans and Their Cell Phones, takes a look at how cell phones have worked themselves into our lives—what we do with them, how we feel about them, whether we can even bring ourselves to take a break and turn them off.
About a third (35%) of adults in the US own a smartphone, specifically, including over half (52%) of young adults under 30. This table shows how smartphone users in different age groups use their devices, but the full report has a lot more information about other demographic groups, as well as how smartphone users compare to the rest of the cell phone-using population. If you haven’t already, check it out: Americans and Their Cell Phones (2011)
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According to the survey, 46% of people now say they get their news online at least three times a week, surpassing newspapers (40%) for the first time. Only local television is more popular among Americans, with 50% indicating that’s their regular source for news.
Really interesting (and long) article about the development of news media!
It’s easy to look at mass layoffs at some of the most important news institutions we’ve ever had and make a point that our culture no longer values the production of news, but, when we have 120,000 new blogs created each day, I think the point is precisely the opposite. News is important. It’s so important that leaving it to a group of people in an office downtown is and has always been irresponsible.