Odds are that you’ve already read at least one article that was completely generated by an algorithm. When content marketers read headlines like, “The Washington Post’s Robot Reporter Has Published 850 Articles in the Past Year,” it’s hard not to feel anxious. However, what advanced artificial intelligence systems lack is critical thought, predictive judgement and intuitive feel for consumers’ wants and needs, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon.
The sea of automation
In 2017, Wan Xiaojun, a leading professor at Peking University developed robo journalist, Xiao Nan, who was able to complete a 300-character long article in a second. However, Wan was quick to say that although the robot’s data capacity and writing speed were impressive, the robot couldn’t be completely “self-sufficient to conduct face to face interviews, respond intuitively with follow up questions, or select a news angle from an interview or conversation.” For now, critical thought and semantically incisive writing remain beyond robots’ cold, unfeeling grasps.
That’s not to say Artificial Intelligence (AI) can’t help with writing tasks. Today, AI is already being employed to streamline social media workflows, automate mundane marketing tasks, crunch data for media insights, eliminate fake news, filter raw data and generate statistical reports. However, human copywriters are still holding onto their jobs (so far), as scientists have yet to discover how to programme creativity, eloquence and the ability to craft a clever turn of phrase.
A recent survey from Walker Sands, a Chicago-based communications and digital firm, claims that 61% of marketers don’t believe marketing technology will threaten their jobs. A study conducted by Oxford University shockingly predicts that up to 47% of US jobs will become automated over the next decade. However, the likelihood differs by occupation. According to researchers, surgeons and lawyers have only a 0.42 % and 3.5 % chance of being replaced by automation. However, accountants should start planning for the future – as there is a 94% chance their jobs will be replaced by machines. Interestingly, creative disciplines such as marketers also appear safe from the oncoming wave of automation, with only a 1.4% chance of being replaced by AI.
Walker Sand’s Account Director Jennifer Mulligan comments, “Anyone who’s ever used Siri or Alexa or had an unsuccessful Google search can attest to the fact that while technology has come a long way, we’re also a long way from them taking over our jobs… If Siri can’t figure out that I want to know the weather where I live, it’s very unlikely.”
The power of human stories
So, what’s saving content marketers from complete automation and the impending robot apocalypse? Human emotions.
Robots can never fully learn how to foster real human-to-human relationships. They can never truly create content that resonates with customers, like the eagerly anticipated and iconic John Lewis Christmas ads. No matter how advanced AI becomes, it’s unlikely to master the kind of emotional bridge-building that much of the marketing industry depends on. The crux of great content lies in its creativity and the power of great storytelling.
Jon Wuebben, founder and CEO of Content Launch, comments, “If the past trajectory of tech is any predictor of the future, then the advance of AI will do much of what first-generation computer automation did two generations ago: eliminate many process-orientated jobs but in turn, create many others.”
“Machines cannot imagine completely new wants and needs. I don’t think a machine could imagine that people would love iPhones. There will always be a need for human judgment.”
Robo journalists, like Heliograph from the Washington Post may cover stories that are fact-based and easy to report, such as stock updates, weather forecasts, financial reports and sports scores – as these writing processes follow a model that can be easily replicated. But what robots can’t recreate are stories that build an emotional connection with audiences. They can’t explain a personal anecdote, convey sub-context, or describe the protagonist of a story in emotionally gripping detail.
In America alone, people consume more than 100,000 digital words every day, with 92% saying they want brands to use those words to tell stories. Neuroscience research tells us that our brains are triggered to be receptive to great storytelling. To beat the bot, writers need to create unique, empowering human stories, interweave them within their copy and make these stories work on an omnichannel level that spans video, audio, social and everything in between.
The future of content creation
Research shows that the future of content marketing may lie in a hybrid of creative content marketers, algorithms and Big Data insights.
Many believe that in years to come these complex algorithms and artificial intelligence could work actively to understand reader’s tastes, interests and preferences – at which point humans would take over to draft articles that speak directly to that reader. Using AI to filter through raw data will allow writers to find the most appealing topics and opinions – allowing them to create content that now only hits the mark, but resonates with readers on an emotional level.
We are already starting to see the combination of AI and creative writing. In 2015, The New York Times implemented an experimental AI programme called Editor. The aim of this programme was to simplify the journalistic process, and reduce the amount of time required.
When writing articles, NYT journalists can use tags to highlight headlines, phrases, events, people and locations. Over time, the AI programme learns to recognise these semantic tags and simplifies the research process for journalists who are looking for key information through their previous reports, providing them with fast and accurate fact checking.
Using AI as an interactive part of the writing process will most likely increase as AI becomes more and more mainstream. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it could welcome a new era of content marketing that helps to offload the burden of computational processes, allowing writers to focus on the most important element: creating compelling stories.
The use of Natural Language Generation (NLG) technology, AI and machine learning may be increasing, but so is the demand for truly creative content pieces. No amount of technology can tell you how to navigate the intricacies of a customer relationship – only human intuition can. Instead, we should aim to create a hybrid marketing strategy that blends AI and creative thinking to deliver content that truly resonates with target audiences.