Has this article been written by a journalist?

Sendt av: Ulbe Jelluma 23/03/2017

This has become a much-asked question lately for consumers and marketers alike. Photoshop is a children’s toy compared to the tools that exist today to create fake news or to create “alternative facts”. Consumers might be hauled into stories that seem to be credible and brands have to work with media that can’t always be trusted.

Marketers and their agencies have a growing distrust when it comes to certain media and certain tools used to plan and buy media. This had been fed by the ANA Papers in the USA showing existing under-the-table deals between agencies and media partners, but also by the lack of transparency of online media deals. Research showed that from the €100 paid by the brand owner only €40 eventually reached the publisher. Furthermore, the most important online platforms lack independent third party measurement. 

Trust has once again become an important factor for consumers and marketers. News brands, magazines and other publications and platforms must demonstrate their credibility. News brands have a heritage of excellent journalistic work which offers opportunities to win back trust from lost readers and advertisers. However, this will become increasingly difficult to get right due to the upcoming risk automated news generation.


Algorithms creating content

Publications are increasingly making use of algorithms that automatically produce content based on database. These databases can contain different types of data, for example, data about the quarterly financial report of a company. An algorithm can easily - in seconds - produce 100+ variants of press releases of this database. All variants presenting the same content, but in a different way.

At a recent conference on big data, examples were shown of these press releases amongst which featured a preview of the Premier League match (see above) and even of Weather Forecasts (see above for time required for production). This trend has occurred in their quest to reduce costs, create a loyal online readership and to publish a vast number of articles to increase reach. Publications have started use these automated systems as an alternative to journalists. 

But what is an article without the input of journalist? Where is the point-of-view, the perspective, the opinion? Consumers want to guided in this ‘information overloaded’ society. This view determines the trust people have in the publications and platforms. Word-of-mouth and recommendations of others (e.g. travel websites), are major drivers of choice. Readers and consumers need this guide, this trusted person or brand. Factual information generated automatically might just create trust, but at a danger of losing personal connection with the reader. Automated content generator could be the perpetrator of creating fake news or the so called alternative facts as a slight manipulation of data can result in a dramatically different article. 

Publications want to create trust, but their focus must develop beyond delivering just the facts. Actions must be taken to guide the readers, online and offline. Automated content generation will not generate that trust. Journalists will. Publications will need to be the trusted guides for readers, and by getting their trust will remain the trusted partners for brands. And as we know, advertising flourishes in trusted print media.