Quill Software Replaces Journalists By Writing Popular News Stories
A company called Narrative Science has invented the Quill software, which writes journalistic news stories. At present, the software can only write business stories and basic sports reports, but it is hoped that the software will be able to write full reports on popular news subjects before long.
Narrative Science is not the only company to have created this type of software. A number of other similar companies have been spurred on by advancements in natural language generation as well as new types of pattern recognition software to create algorithms that can emulate the style of a professional writer.
The computers created by Narrative Science are using machine learning to perfect their technique, but are already utilized by companies such as Forbes for stock market reports and the Big Ten network for sports reports. A blind study conducted by media professor Christer Clerwall found that readers find reports written by a human journalist more enjoyable, but reports written by software seemed more trustworthy and informative. Co-founder of Narrative Science Kris Hammond is hopeful that computers will soon be able to cover all reporting and recapping stories, leaving journalist to conduct the research needed for more insightful articles.
The Quill software is overseen by around 30 designers and programmers, all working to help the program better itself and improve its capabilities. Moving on from recaps, Narrative Science hopes Quill will be able to make news stories relevant to particular groups and individual interests. Instead of news stories appearing in one format, they may instead take several different angles that are sent to particular groups of companies that will be affected by the news, or even particular people with an interest in a particular subject.
The company hopes to use data as the basis of its stories so that it can target other firms and give them meaningful information for useful purposes rather than entertainment or enjoyment. It will do this by feeding data into the computers running Quill and then comparing or analysing it for new angles on the information. Instead of looking at spreadsheets or informational presentations, people will be able to see stories about the real information which they care about, personally or for their business.
Unlike the opinionated stories created by human journalists, the Quill software creates articles based on reasoning, direction and conclusions that can be quantified and backed up with information. This has come from a starting point where software called News at Seven was put to work writing reviews for movies. Hammond and students at the artificial intelligence labs at Northwestern University created the software which would build up a movie review taking information from sites such as Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB. This led to the News at Seven team collaborating with the Northwestern Medill School of Journalism. From this, Narrative Science was born and the software began to create sports reports, using these to learn how to direct tone and angle a story towards a particular audience.
The Quill software has been able to learn there a limited number of story patterns and use this to its advantage. According to Hammond, the company is now focussing on performance reviews and measuring performance against a particular set of data or benchmark. However, Hammond believes that machines will one day become smarter than humans in every subject. He hopes that one day the company‘s software will be able to subtly inflict emotion into news articles.
There has been mixed reaction to the software, especially from journalists. When the software was still at the beginning of its life, it was presented to sports news organisations such as ESPN. A reporter wasn’t happy about the sports report that the computer had created, but it was more because the report read like it had been written like a human rather than by a machine.
While the Quill software will never replace true journalism and stories of interest, it may have a place in the business world analysing data and writing reports. Sports reports and match recaps will help further the capabilities of the Narrative Science computers, and will allow the journalists who once completed them to work on more fulfilling stories with a human quality that a machine couldn’t wholly replicate.