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Fake news, AI and Robots—Another day in the life of a journalist

The ‘death of the press,’ fake news and artificial intelligence (AI)—2018 sure was a tumultuous year for the media industry and journalism. Now ‘robo-journalism’ is set to shake up the industry once again, as news cycles continue to be disrupted by an ever-changing media landscape. 

In October 2018, Hotwire Australia commissioned a study looking at Australians’ experiences with and opinions on the phenomenon known as robo-journalism, to uncover attitudes towards this latest form of storytelling. 

Here is what we found. 

Journalists are valued, but so is technology. Are robots the answer? 

The survey of 1,500 Australians found that 59% of Australians think it is likely they have already read articles written by robots, attesting to the rapid acceleration of this new phenomenon.  

This is when things start to get murky. 

Although over half of respondents see ethical issues with stories prepared by robots, 2 in 3 people are not prepared to pay for news from a reputable publication. 

The plot thickens. 

More than half of respondents would read a piece of journalism prepared by a robot journalist if it was free, with 45% of 18-24 year-olds open to robo-journalism in general. 

The takeaway?  

The audience is divided. On the one hand, independent, human-written stories are valued unless they have to be paid for, in which case robo-journalism seems like a viable alternative. 

While the future of robots hangs in the balance, these developments are already affecting professionals in the marketing and communication sector, who are inextricably interwoven with the media industry. 

What are the professionals saying? 

To make further sense of the results, we collated advice from our global experts on some of the themes raised in this study. 

Are we doomed to a robot-led media landscape?  Resoundingly, no

  • Andy West, Group Chief Development Officer at Hotwire, London, says: 
    • “No, intelligent consumers will always want the analysis and insight that comes with true news reporting.  Robots cannot provide context or opinion, nor can they articulate emotion—they can merely report facts.” 
  • Louay Al Samarrai, Managing Director at Active, UAE, says:
    • “We still see a strong role for real journalism especially in the era of fake news and the seeming ‘revolution’ against social media platforms and online news sites that aren’t recognised mainstream ‘brands’ with their agendas—left or right-focused.” 

Why are consumers valuing human-driven insights over robo-driven content? 

  • Martin Sparey, Practice lead, IT and Infrastructure at Hotwire, London, says:
    • “People want perspective. The technological, political and economic news agenda isn’t easy to process, package and understand, so we value those on the inside track’s viewpoint and outlook.”  
  • Tom Rouse, Creative Director at Hotwire, London, says:
    • “There are more sources of news out there than anyone could ever hope to read—from traditional publishers through to social media we have no shortages of places to get facts from. So we look for insight from publications which share our view of the world to help explain what’s going on.” 

What is the no. 1 piece of advice to CMOs and brands navigating the shrinking media pool in Australia? 

  • Louise Morrisey, Senior Content Manager at Hotwire, Australia, says:
    • “Our industry must start thinking more strategically about content, especially with the shrinking media pool and accelerated news—essentially, marketers need to think about how a single piece of content can be transformed into various forms. For example, why can’t you turn blog content into an e-book, then a video and an EDM? The sky is the limit with how far you can apply this rule. It ensures marketing teams are using their resources effectively and delivering the biggest impact.” 

The jury is still out on how the rise robo-journalism will play out in the years to come. We can be certain that as the Australian media pool consolidates and publications struggle to convince readers to pay for something that was once free, brands must adapt their content strategy to suit the market. 

Download the full whitepaperThe Australian News Landscape of 2019: Is The Robo-Journalism Era Already Here?