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The battle between content marketers and AI

Wed, 05/07/2017 - 09:51

It’s the kind of headline that’s sure to send shivers up every content marketer’s spine and strike fear into their hearts. Will Artificial Intelligence Replace Manual Content Creation, asked the Content Marketing Institute a few weeks ago.
 
The tl;dr answer to that question, luckily for flustered content marketers everywhere, is not anytime soon. Computers are clever and they're becoming smarter every day. But they can’t create the kind of copy a human can. Simply put, a writer needs humour, enthusiasm and experience to craft the kind of copy which appeals to readers.
 
Creative content
 
The Institute’s Sujan Patel writes: “Those of us in roles that require creative thinking and original ideas – like content creation – are also deemed at less risk of having our jobs swiped from under our noses by something harder-working, 'smarter' and cheaper to maintain. For now.
“It’s pretty tough to envision a machine generating great content ideas, not to mention creating that content – content worth consuming. Or so you might think. The reality is that machines are already writing content – and they’re pretty good at it.”
 
He points to a Gartner prediction that says by 2018 (that’s next year!) one in five pieces of business content will be authored by machines. The prediction says: “Technologies with the ability to proactively assemble and deliver information through automated composition engines are fostering a movement from human- to machine-generated business content.
“Data-based and analytical information can be turned into natural language writing using these emerging tools. Business content, such as shareholder reports, legal documents, market reports, press releases, articles and white papers, are all candidates for automated writing tools.”
 
Computer-generated content
 
In fact, that’s already happening. And it’s good news for writers who dislike writing that kind of copy. If you’ve ever glanced at a Forbes earning report, you know, as you do, they’re created using natural language generation platform Quill. Here’s an example of what the content looks like:
 
“The consensus estimate remains unchanged over the past month, but it has decreased from three months ago when it was 39 cents. For the fiscal year, analysts are expecting earnings of $1.68 per share. Revenue is projected to be 2% above the year-earlier total of $369.4 million at $378.4 million for the quarter. For the year, revenue is projected to roll in at $1.56 billion.”
 
That sense of humanity
 
Now, to most of us, that doesn’t make much sense. But it’s not the writing that’s at fault. It’s the subject matter. If you were to actually understand terms like “consensus estimate” and “fiscal year”, this would likely make perfect sense. But something is missing. That sense of humanity. 
 
AI has created other content aside from earnings reports, including blurbs about sports and even a cookbook. And they all read the same. Okay, but lacking in soul. So, for any content writer who’s worried about the threat of AI, remember to inject your humanity into your writing. That’s what’ll set you apart and that’s what’ll keep you employed.

*A version of this article was previously published on Media Update.