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Robo-journalism on rise

24 May 2014 [10:10] - TODAY.AZ
By AzerNews

In the future, automatics will carry out the work of traditional editors' offices, which is already part of the activities of the world's leading media companies.

The advantages of robo-journalism in the modern world have also been confirmed by the participants of the European Newspaper Congress, held in Vienna on May 5-6.

The case related to an earthquake that occurred in California in March 2014 was cited as an example of such journalism. No sooner had it stopped than the details of the disaster were shown in an article published on the website of Los Angeles Times. The edition provided information about the natural disaster much faster than others, because the news was not written by a man, but by a robot.

Ken Schwencke, a journalist and programmer for the Los Angeles Times, was jolted awake at 6:25 a.m. on Monday by an earthquake. He rolled out of bed and went straight to his computer, where he found a brief story about an earthquake already written and waiting in his PC. He glanced at the text and hit 'publish'. And that's how the Los Angeles Times became the first media outlet to report that morning's temblor.

The robot was able to gather all the necessary information and publish it in less than three minutes thereby saving time.

This technology is based on the Quakebot software, which has the ability to track and retrieve important data. It is programmed to extract the relevant data from the USGS report and plug it into a pre-written template. The story goes into the Los Angeles Times' content management system, where it awaits review and publication by a human editor.

Robo-journalism is often hyped as a threat to the journalists' jobs. Schwencke doesn't see it that way.

"It saves people a lot of time, and for certain types of stories, it gets the information out there in usually about as good a way as anybody else would."

Of course, the technology can not replace people, however, it makes it possible to analyze the situation quickly enough.

During the congress the participants also presented opportunities for multimedia journalism and charting.

Mirko Lorenz, one of the world's leading experts in journalism who is a consultant for Deutsche Welle and the creator of Datawrapper, described his visions for the development of journalism. Datawrapper, known all over the world, is able to create graphs and charts that show the information in detail, he said.

He believes the establishment of data is like "salvation" for both individual editors' offices and people of all professions. There are currently a lot of information channels, so speed is not the main goal of the editors' office. Data is more important than an interview or text.

Lorenz believes visualization is important, because it allows you to provide more information and helps the audience to get a better understanding.

The Datawrapper is an open source tool for the creation of basic, correct charts for the web in an extremely short time. So it is used quite successfully by many large editors' offices, particularly the Guardian, Monde, Standard, and NZZ.

Datawrapper which opens up a faster way of creating a chart and embedding it in a website, can be used for free, and published in an open mode. The launch of this service showed a rapid increase in traffic; 10 million clicks were made on the graphic material in a month, leading to an increase in the traffic of the resource, Lorenz said.

Senior director of news and social products at Google Richard Gingras believes media landscape is undergoing a process of transformation worldwide.

"The renaissance of journalism as an art is a great opportunity to rethink it differently and 'grow' creative ideas in the future," Gingras said.

Motorola statistics show that users check their mobile devices at least 100 times a day. If there are 1.5 billion smart phones in circulation today, their number is expected to increase to 20 billion by 2017.

"This suggests that with the advance of technologies, people started to read more news; we can cover 20-30 percent of the news traffic, but we are going to increase it to 75 percent with the help of new developments. Currently, 25 percent of the news flow is provided through home pages, and the remaining 75 percent fall on web pages," he said.

He went on to note that the media market volatility demands quality changes. With the emergence of social networks, 50 percent of users share information and 20-30 percent of the news flow is provided this way.

In his remarks, CEO of NZZ Veit Dengler cited three phases of transformation in the media sphere: the establishment of new companies that do not try to implement innovations, the shock of real changes that most media companies suffer from, and surviving companies that develop new business models.

During the event, several new startups-new solutions for the development of journalism in the XXI century-were demonstrated as well.

The European Newspaper Congress is being held annually, and gathered over 220 representatives of print and electronic publications from Europe and CIS countries this year.

The event's sponsor was Japan Tabacco International Company, which organized the participation of Azerbaijani journalists in the Congress.

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