Can Content Scale Using Automation?

by Jason Falls |
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StatSheet serves up automated reports of sporting events written, in standard journalistic prose, completely by computers. The sports statistics company in Durham, N.C., produces content pages for all 345 NCAA Division I men’s basketball teams and pumps game recaps and similar content composed by the site’s software which uses the box scores and raw data to fuel its stories.

Never mind that I was a sports journalist and publicity professional for 12 years and this software nearly commoditizes what I once called my profession. What this software does is gives us a peek into the possibilities of content based on data. Bear with me, here. This will make sense in a moment.

StatSheet - Sports StatisticsAt the end of each ballgame I worked in my modest journeys as a college sports information director and sports writer, I would compose a game recap that would either be distributed to our media outlets not in attendance, posted on our website or both. (Yes, we had websites then. Hush.) If I was approaching the typical 11 p.m. deadline for the local newspapers and television stations to receive information for use in tomorrows edition or the late night broadcast, I had to pound out a quick release that typically used the game box score or statistics as the factual basis for the article.

What StatSheet has done is create a software program that will do just that automatically. Here’s a sampling from Morehead State University’s (my undergraduate alma mater) recent loss to No. 4 Ohio State:

With a couple recent losses, there is definitely cause for concern. In Columbus on November 23rd the Eagles lost to the 4th ranked Buckeyes, 64-45. Ohio State got the win by taking control of shooting and also winning assists.

The Buckeyes didn’t need much in shooting accuracy, making 53% of their shots while their defense limited the Eagles to 37%. Ohio State shared the ball and registered 17 assists to 9 for Morehead State. A big problem for Morehead State was their 45 points, which was far below their 66.4 season average.

Kenneth Faried led the losing effort for the Eagles with 15 points on 71% shooting in 32 minutes. Faried also had a game-leading 12 rebounds.

Morehead State won’t take any comfort in a loss to Top 25 ranked Ohio State. The Eagles have fallen to 2-3. This adds yet another loss to our 3 game string.

Our next opponent is SIU Edwardsville on the road on November 28th.

Taking existing data and turning it into content opens up a couple of really interesting possibilities in the technology sector, particularly that of marketing and public relations. Think of your current frustrations with social media monitoring or social media measurement methods. Printing off pretty charts and graphs is one thing, but being able to generate some standard cover sheet insights or even straight pluses and minuses without having to pour through the data and write it manually sounds pretty appealing to me. Just tell the software what statistical data points are most meaningful to your organization and poof – three paragraphs of prose emailed to appropriate executives daily if they want.

Then think of whether or not your company or organization uses data as the basis for any type of content. Maybe it’s quarterly financial reporting. Perhaps you push out safety or health statistics from a government agency. Or maybe (notice tongue planted firmly in cheek for a moment) your market research firm can just push the survey results into the doomaflitchit and your $800 report comes out with a big, pretty bow wrapped around it.

Joking aside, what if you could not only automate that reporting, but also increase its frequency because the computers can be taught to pull the relevant insights and put them in some sort of literate order for you? What this does is offer at least one element of content automation that helps your content then become more scalable.

No, I’m not advocating that machines replace humans for quality content. But when the content is based on data and almost data alone, why not make it easier?

I have no idea if StatSheet has ever thought beyond the walls of sports data for its platform, but it sure could open some interesting possibilities if they are.

What are your thoughts? Do services like this undermine or improve content? Is this just another unfortunate technology that commoditizes journalists? Is it something you’d find useful in your business? How? The comments are yours.

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About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).