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How Content Automation Saves Jobs and Puts Journalists to Work

When Chicken Little famously wailed about a falling sky, it was an early example of fearmongering. Twenty-five centuries after the cumulative tale first appeared, some media outlets are wondering if the heavens will tumble upon the overworked noggins of hard-working journalists. 

Not if automation has anything to say about it.

Although automation is often cast in a negative light, it saves jobs in the publishing world by driving subscriptions, improving ad revenues, reducing costs and expanding the breadth of topics.

  • Saves Jobs – Automation improves unit economics to enable news publishers to curb layoffs and grow newsrooms.
  • Drives Subscriptions – Publishers need solutions to combat shrinking subscriber bases. Automation’s ability to produce thousands of pieces of content catering to local audiences drives new subscriptions.
  • Improve Ad Revenues – Consistent, timely and relevant content keeps readers coming back and enables publishers to justify premium advertising rates. Automation can exponentially increase the number of articles publish, creating a much larger inventory of articles a publisher can monetize through programmatic ad networks.
  • Reduce Costs – It’s expensive to produce high-quality content, but automation algorithms minimize costs by converting data into articles without requiring human involvement.
  • Expand Topics – Newsroom employment declined 25% between 2008 and 2018, but automation helps them scale again by leveraging a consistent influx of appealing and localized content.

Algorithms will never earn a Pulitzer Prize because machines can’t investigate, interview, develop sources, follow hunches or leverage relationships. And a journalist will never win a Pulitzer if she is bogged down with repetitive work and unable to execute the tasks listed above. 

Considering the startling decline in ad dollars and subscriptions for magazines and newspapers across the country, producing high-quality content at a fraction of previous costs has never been more paramount.

Hypothetical Newsroom

Let’s take a look at a hypothetical newsroom and examine how a hybrid model can dramatically drive revenue with little disruption to existing operations. Automated content is not intended to replace journalists but rather broaden and scale certain types of news. 

Resources, Costs and Revenue 

When determining the true cost of creating an article, it’s not enough to simply divide the writer’s salary or use the per article bounty paid to freelancers.

For mid-to-large publishers, a single article is the aggregate result of effort from several contributors. Take a look at the graphic below for a list of common contributions to an individual article.

Each of the seven steps above has an implicit cost that should be factored into any attempt to understand your content production costs accurately. We’ve put together a graphic example for calculating the true cost associated with content production.

These figures are strictly for demonstration purposes and may not reflect the reality of your specific news operation. 

If you would like to see this calculator with numbers specific to your company, contact us and we’ll be happy to provide you with a customized calculator. 

Newsroom Calculations

The anecdotal figures from the table above offer us the following output of articles, impressions and revenue. You can see from the following calculations, the hypothetical newsroom may drive six-figure revenue, but it doesn’t drive profit. 

Affect of Newsroom Automation

If we keep all variables the same and add automated crime, sports, real estate and weather articles, we can double content inventory, avoid layoffs and drive meaningful profit. 

The table below represents a relatively simple integration of automation. Most publishers don’t currently write most of the automated articles proposed, so disruption is minimal. 

Hybrid Newsroom Calculations

Pay special attention to the Avg. Cost Per Article: The cost went from $105 per article to almost $37 once automation scaled production. An automated article costs a fraction of a traditional article. 

Automation Prevents the Sky from Falling

Despite contrary belief, automating content will not ruin the careers of journalists around the globe. Instead, it’s going to affect the publishing industry constructively by handling repetitive content, increasing ad revenue and liberating journalists to conduct in-depth reporting that no amount of artificial intelligence can handle.

The sky isn’t falling after all, and content automation is here to keep the heavens and sky from crashing down upon the publishing industry.

Author avatar
Jordan Nilsen
Jordan is a co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Data Skrive. He's spent the last 15 years in digital marketing and is always willing to debate the merits of the oxford comma.