Associated Press taps story-writing software

The Associated Press, the largest American-based news agency in the world, will now use story-writing software to produce U.S. corporate earnings stories.

In a recent blog post post AP Managing Editor Lou Ferarra explained that the software is capable of producing these stories, which are largely technical financial reports that range from 150 to 300 words, in “roughly the same time that it takes our reporters.”

AP staff members will initially edit the software-produced reports, but the agency hopes the process will soon be fully automated.

The Wordsmith software constructs narratives in plain English by using algorithms to analyze trends and patterns in a set of data and place them in an appropriate context depending on the nature of the story.

Wordsmith was developed by North Carolina startup Automated Insights, which was founded in 2007. The company has since raised its total capital to $10.8 million, producing over 300 million stories in 2013 alone, making it the world’s largest producer of automated narrative content. It counts Samsung Venture Investment Corporation, former AOL CEO Steve Case, and The Associated Press among its current investors.

AP already uses Automated Insights to produce text descriptions of NFL players for the agency’s pro football site. Yahoo’s Fantasy Football uses Wordsmith, relying on the software to produce personalized summaries of fantasy football matchups and drafts for individual users.

Though the stories Wordsmith produces are largely data driven, Yahoo has reportedly ordered developers to imbue the software’s fantasy draft reports with some humor.  Automated Insights CEO Robbie Allen told USA Today that “the draft recap might say: you might as well go to the beach during week 10” instead of merely informing a user that several of his or her drafted players will not be eligible in week 10.

Representatives for the Associated Press have assured anyone who fears robots are making journalists obsolete that Wordsmith will not be taking the jobs of staffers. “We are going to use our brains and time in more enterprising ways during earnings season” Ferarra wrote, in the blog pos. “This is about using technology to free journalists to do more journalism and less data processing, not about eliminating jobs.”

Though AP currently produces about 300 staff-written earnings reports each quarter, the agency hopes to produce up to 4,400 automated earnings reports per quarter by year’s end.