Google funds Press Association robot reporter project which will write 30,000 local news stories a month

The Press Assocation has been awarded €706,000 by Google to develop a robot reporting project which will see computers write 30,000 stories a month for local media.

It is among the latest UK grant recipients from Google under its €150m three-year Digital News Initiative.

The project, which as been going for two years, seeks to encourage new ways of helping journalism to survive in the digital age.

Other UK recipients for the latest round of grants include:

  • Al Jazeera English (€50,000)
  • City University (€335,113)
  • Wikipedia (UK) (€385,000)
  • Dennis Publishing (€160,000)
  • Fullfact (€300,000).

The PA project is called Reporters and Data and Robots (RADAR) and is being run in conjunction with Urbs Media.

PA said in a statement: “RADAR is intended to meet the increasing demand for consistent, fact-based insights into local communities, for the benefit of established regional media outlets, as well as the growing sector of independent publishers, hyperlocal outlets and bloggers.”

A team of five journalists working on project will use open government and local authority databases, and story templates, to create automatic stories about health, crime, employment and other subjects.

“Natural Language Generation” software will be used to produce multiple versions of stories, to “scale up the mass localisation of news content”.

PA editor Pete Clifton said: “We believe our partnership with Urbs Media can be a genuine game-changer for media outlets across the UK and Ireland.

“At a time when many media outlets are experiencing commercial pressures, RADAR will provide the news ecosystem with a cost-effective way to provide incisive local stories, enabling audiences to hold democratic bodies to account.

“We have already provided an outline of our plans to some of our regional customers, and they have been universally positive. One described it as ‘genius’.

“Skilled human journalists will still be vital in the process, but RADAR allows us to harness artificial intelligence to scale up to a volume of local stories that would be impossible to provide manually.”

RADAR is scheduled to launch in early 2018.

Some 107 projects across 27 Europea countries being offered funding worth €22m from Google in the latest batch of grants.

The other UK projects in the latest round of grants (source Google) include:

WikiTribune – UK

A news platform launched by Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, has been awarded €385,000. It seeks to solve the problem of clickbait low quality journalism by bringing community members into the virtual newsroom to work side by side with paid professional journalists. The latter will research and report news stories alongside volunteers who curate articles by proofreading, fact-checking, suggesting changes and adding sources for stories that matter.

Dennis Publishing (Project Arete) – UK

Project Arete will develop a prototype digital advertising trading platform designed specifically for premium Publishers. Its key USP will be that will guarantee transaction transparency for both the sell side and the buy side. This layer of verified transparency will afford legacy publishers the ability to demonstrate and execute the true value of their media and audiences.

AJ Labs London ((Al Jazeera International) – UK

Building an an open-source, interactive, storytelling app for news and current affairs features where the user experiences journalism via a messaging platform. The app enables journalists to embed content from interviews with a variety sources into a series of messaging exchanges, and it allows the user to choose between a number of seemingly direct conversations with the interviewees. The user’s responses trigger the next messaging exchange and pivotal “decision points” give the user choices on how to progress. The result is a personalised, immersive, in-depth experience of a serious news story.


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