Future tech

AI penetrates China’s media sector as robot starts writing business reports

Human writers free to pursue in-depth stories as machine takes over data-heavy templated content such as earnings reports

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 December, 2016, 8:02pm
UPDATED : Friday, 09 December, 2016, 3:32pm

Artificial intelligence (AI) is penetrating China’s media industry as a “robot reporter” has started writing company results and economic data at a Shanghai-based financial news outlet, which is working to upgrade the programme to help human journalists write.

AI could write four kinds of business news including regular listed companies’ results and macro-economic data such as consumer price index and gross domestic product figures, China Business Network chief executive Zhou Jiangong said. The Shanghai-based firm runs a number of publications and news sites including newspaper China Business News, and CBNweekly magazine.

“AI’s automated writing feature can also do brief news on celebrities’ comments on social media, as well as stock market opens and closes which are some routine stories we need every trading day,” Zhou said at the company’s conference to release internet consumption data in Beijing.

The financial news outlet is 30-per cent owned by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group.

The programme, also known as a robot reporter, had been used for six months while the company was working to upgrade it to help journalists writing more in-depth stories, instead of some standardised report.

The upgraded version, Writing Master, was expected to launch in the first half of next year, Zhou said.

“The 2.0 programme will be able to assist in generating graphics and pictures based on journalists’ stories and advising relevant references,” Zhou said. “However, AI can never replace human journalists who are able to make news judgement, do on-site observation and interpersonal communication.”

China Business Network’s AI application also aimed to provide a solution to content generators and bloggers, competing with other news portals such as internet giant Tencent Holdings’

Tencent last year launched a news-writing robot known as “Dreamwriter” which it said could write more than a hundred articles a day.

Robot reporters are not new to overseas media organisations. News agencies such as Associated Press, Dow Jones and Bloomberg have already made substantial investments in developing AI-powered programmes to generate English content.

Zhou said China Business Network had also expanded to English content, running an account on Twitter that provided news feeds about China’s stock markets. And stories posted on this account were written by robot reporters.

Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.