On content marketing, are the machines now winning?
You might have heard the news. Or not, depending on how closely you follow the industry pages.
Either way, here at Smoking Gun PR we pride ourselves on constantly being up with the pros, cons, highs and lows of the media game. Not least content marketing. And as such it takes a lot to get us stumped. A lot is what has been taken.
Recent reports abound about how AP- AKA Associated Press, AKA one of the biggest editorial agencies in the world- is now apparently using an algorithm to write some of its sports pages. Just to clarify, this is a company that turns a profit from other editorial companies using the work it provides. It responds to a demand, whilst also predicting what that demand will be.
Given all that, it’s worrying for so many reasons that the firm should be looking to non-human ‘experts’ for its athletics coverage. Even on the most basic level, that implies a wholehearted acceptance of a very (if not literally) by numbers reportage. At the worst, it suggests a final solution to the terminal newspaper/magazine/website problem.
“Ah, if only we could just get some content, but not have to pay for it.”
In theory this all sounds like a fine idea- our close journalistic friends and their way of life and living aside. However, dig a little deeper and you start to realise that something is very definitely missing.
In his book, Tales From The Dark Side, Nick Kent reveals exactly how much of a beast he is. Drinking, slurring, stumbling his way through interviews, it is hands down the greatest collection of rock ‘n’ roll interviews ever amassed. But what’s the real reason we love it so much? That one line Lou Reed said? The time when you thought the gig was going to bomb, but it didn’t? Or simply the fact that he offers up some real personality. A writer we feel like we know. Albeit that happens slowly.
This isn’t to say that no writing from recent times has personality. But then writing, in the age of quantity of content as a governing force, as oppose to quality, has gradually been moving away from personality. We favour up to date updates, what’s happening now, and knee jerk responses over opinions we have learnt over time to trust.
Needless to say, it will be some time before any computer software can emulate the musings of a real life scribe. Perhaps that moment will never come. It’s going to take some complicated maths to work out whether a festival was actually good or not. However, none of that might be necessary.
There’s a chance that, slowly but surely, an age wherein machines are beginning to pen the news will bring about a new, refreshed appreciation for those organic lifeforms offering their written two pennies. Picture a Blade Runner style future in which everything reported is automated, and you start to realise quite how precious a genuine voice is.
So let’s put this into the context of the brand, and content marketing, seen as that’s why we’re here. There are no algorithms currently at work piecing together stories for corporate blogs. Or at least none that we know of. Nevertheless, there is an abundance of URLs hosting text that sounds, reads, feels and looks exactly the same as whatever the counterpart URL is hosting. When it comes to the context of blogs for business, many have forgotten that most important aspect of branding- a Unique Selling Point. Let’s hope that the rise of the machines is enough to catalyse a renewed interest in original prose, if not necessarily original opinion- the only sure fire way of ensuring we take something other than general malaise from our content consumption.