Media robots

    In early 2006, media magnate Rupert Murdoch warned that publications that would not have robotic editors on staff by 2010 were doomed to failure. However, today there are media outlets that not only have robot editors, but also do not have human editors. We are talking about special computer programs-robots that look for information, structure it and publish it.

    Click and copy
    In the mid-90s, a curious lawsuit took place in New York. The American publisher Oleg Pogrebnoy set up a good business - he published the Courier newspaper for Russian immigrants, which consisted entirely of reprinted materials from the Russian media. Of course, he did not pay anything for the reprint, hoping that the affected publications (Moskovsky Komsomolets, AiF, KP, Moskovskie Novosti, Megapolis Express, etc.) would not seek the truth across the ocean. Those, however, eventually filed a lawsuit in a court in New York City. The court awarded them compensation in the amount of $ 500 thousand.

    Oleg Pogrebnoy launched his enterprise at an unsuccessful time. A decade earlier, nothing would have threatened him. A decade later, too, but on condition that he would transfer his business to the Internet.

    The Internet has spawned not only the media of the new formation, but also a large-scale phenomenon called copy-paste. The process of stealing information from a newspaper or magazine has been reduced to two simple and, most importantly, free operations. First, press Ctrl-C on the computer keyboard and copy the information (Copy in English), then press Ctrl-V and paste the information (in English - Paste) to another location. Copy and Paste - this is copy-paste.

    It was the spread of copy-paste that led to the emergence of robotic media. When cross-theft of information becomes widespread, apparently, there can be no talk of any effective legal measures to suppress it. Technical measures are also not effective. After all, the opposite side can give a technical answer, and then the costs of such a fight will exceed the possible benefits of eliminating copy-paste.

    However, the owners of electronic media quickly realized that it was more profitable not to fight copy-paste, but to take control of it and wrap it to your advantage. The bottom line is simple: if you allow copy-paste of your materials officially, putting in place a burdensome condition to indicate the source of information, then this will not only work as an advertisement, but, more importantly, increase the credibility of the source media of Internet search engines - it will appear on the first pages of search queries .

    As a result, a mechanism was born for the automatic broadcast of media materials to other sites, the so-called RSS (Really Simple Syndication - “simple receipt of information”). RSS reduced the cost of the copy-paste process as much as possible by eliminating any manual labor: it was enough to make a one-time setup, and materials from someone else's site were automatically on yours.

    There appeared “news aggregators” - network media, on which materials borrowed from various sources were automatically pulled together. According to Nikolai Matsievsky, head of the Parallels online marketing department, the Yandex.News service is currently the optimal mechanism for tracking the information flow in RuNet - certain topics or keywords in the news.

    However, the appearance of RSS had negative consequences, playing into the hands of moneymakers - this is what they call a huge and still little studied group of small network entrepreneurs who grab onto any business that can bring at least some kind of income. Mostly these are young people - students and even high school students who want to earn extra money on the Internet and who are showing miracles of ingenuity in this field.

    Moneymakers almost instantly realized that RSS gives a good opportunity to earn money without much effort, and on the Internet thousands of news sites began to spawn, which in fact served only as a place for advertising and paid links. Having spent some effort on promoting such a site, it was possible to get up to several hundred dollars a month from it. Of course, the promotion was not carried out by the most correct methods - mainly due to search spam (palm off on search engines useless texts and links stuffed with keywords). As a result, useful information began to sink in the streams of informational garbage. However, gradually the search engines somehow coped with this scourge, and the number of “false” RSS-feeds decreased significantly.

    Creative factor
    According to some experts, it makes no sense to talk about any noticeable progress in the field of RSS-media, the processes have been going on for many years. “It seems to me,” notes Igor Ashmanov, head of the Ashmanov & Partners company, “no revolution is currently taking place in this area. All technologies were already created several years ago. Press clipping using automatic news search and filtering has been used for several years. “Yandex.News”, “Novoteka”, other news aggregators that allow you to create a personal account and subscribe to news on the necessary topics have been around for five years. The mentioned money-makers, door-keepers, and optimizers have also been generating pseudo-news sites for several years now, and for this they do not need robo-media at all, since this industry has long had the means of automatically synthesizing texts on a given topic. Generally,

    One way or another, RSS aggregators can be considered the first generation of robotic media. They performed purely technical work: they took material from one place indicated by them and transferred it to another. Information, say, from the blogosphere cannot be gathered.

    Second-generation publishing robots did not come from the publishing industry, as might be expected, but from an adjacent business, which, depending on the situation, is sometimes called "analytics", and sometimes - "industrial intelligence". One of the tasks that companies of this profile have always carried out is monitoring the media according to certain criteria. The Internet, firstly, made it possible to automate this process, and secondly, it allowed the inclusion in the monitoring of blogs and forums that contain valuable information, often not available in traditional media.

    “Our company has been engaged in automated analysis of traditional, paper media for quite some time,” recalls PresScan CEO Nikolai Dokuchaev. “And we initially sought to be made not by analysts from flesh and blood, but by robots, programs. Intrigued by the words of Murdoch about the possible failure of publications that by 2010 will not have staff of robot editors, we began to experiment with data selection and very quickly realized that this was a very promising direction. In the end, we created the site, where themed news feeds collected by the robots themselves are broadcast. "Only a small part of the material is publicly available, but subscribers have access to a very rich information base."

    A typical task solved within the framework of industrial intelligence is monitoring blogs and forums. This way, for example, it is possible to identify stocks hostile to the company at the initial stage of preparation, or to get an idea of ​​the consumer’s reaction to a new product as soon as possible. Of course, a robot that performs such tasks should be smart enough to at least independently determine the subject and novelty of a message or track the dynamics of a new topic.

    According to Ilya Solovyov, Executive Director of the Present agency, the key advantage of robo-media is the ability to quickly provide an accurate selection of thematic information. Including, through the study of the blogosphere, forums, Web 2.0 resources - to give an objective picture of public opinion on a particular issue.

    Gradually, analytic firms (from Russian companies that own information flow analysis and structuring technologies, in addition to PresScan, we can mention,,; from foreign systems gained the greatest popularity), they realized that the information structures they create - This is an almost finished product suitable for the role of the media, and they began to offer it to the market. The product was immediately loved by online stores, travel agencies - all those who, for one reason or another, were interested in having a news feed or thematic selection of articles on their website, but whose plans did not include starting their own editorial office for this purpose. Examples of sites with robotic news feeds are,

    Traditional online media also use robotic news feeds, but not only do not advertise this, but also carefully hide it. According to suppliers of robotic information, online media prefer to buy information not in pure form, but in the form of a kind of semi-finished product for further processing by editors.

    According to Nikolai Dokuchaev, the robot can determine the topic of information, fetch everything new from the stream, but are hardly able to assess the quality of the material and understand how interesting it is to the reader. A robot can perform 90-95% of all preliminary work on filling an online newspaper with relevant content. But the final touch is to decide whether to put the material into work, and on which page to put it - on the first or deeper, only a person can.

    However, not far off is the widespread dissemination of fully robotic media that operate completely without human intervention. While such sites are aimed at very narrow niches, they solve highly specialized information problems. For example, in connection with the events in South Ossetia, the Tskhinval.SU robot website was opened, which tracked the appearance of messages on the conflict in the Live Journal and immediately broadcast them to a central feed. And since many eyewitnesses and participants in the events wrote in the Hot Journal, Tskhinval.SU sometimes provided new information several hours earlier than news agencies. In addition, some objectivity of the picture was achieved in this way, since it was illuminated from the point of view of all parties to the conflict.

    Nevertheless, according to Kirill Vishnepolsky, editor-in-chief of the Russian Newsweek magazine, robotics will mainly affect the news media: “At the moment, we have three almost non-overlapping markets: information journalism (this is primarily news agencies) that delivers the latest news to the market ; journalism of opinions and assessments is the daily and weekly socio-political press, and entertainment media is television (well, the glossy press, if it can be classified as media at all). Robots do not threaten the last two markets in any way - these media sell their stars, analysts, commentators to the viewer, you can’t replace them with robots. I want to hear assessments of the Georgian crisis from specific Maxim Sokolov or Mikhail Fishman, and not the “white noise” collected by the robots on blogs. ”

    Camo Gryadshi
    Now RoboSMI has already established itself in the field of information delivery, but if we talk about the market of traditional media, then the robots have just begun to enter it, and not even everyone has realized what is happening. Robots have almost taken away bread from journalists in related fields. Previously, the owners of portals and online stores hired journalists (at least as freelancers) to prepare thematic news feeds for websites, but now almost all of these feeds are done automatically - either through the RSS mechanism or with the help of next-generation robots. Even if subscribing to such a news feed costs several hundred y. e. per month, it’s cheaper than keeping journalists and editors. With a comparable end result.

    Difficult times also begin with the employees of traditional online media engaged in the selection and sorting of information for news feeds. For them, robots are not helpers, but competitors - they perform this work no worse or slightly worse than humans, but they are much cheaper, do not get sick and do not require a social package.

    It seems that soon all types of business, one way or another connected with the selection and delivery of information, will become the lot of robots. So, according to Kirill Vishnepolsky, robots can crush the market for PR consulting. Many PR agencies make money by preparing press clippings for clients - collections of publications on a given topic or on a specific object. Robots can easily take this piece of bread from PR specialists.

    There are already quite a few tech-savvy journalists who, although they write articles on their own, do all the rough work — collecting source data, finding experts, and compiling statistical information — for robots. An example of a robot that is designed to service this journalistic layer is the service.

    Sergei Leonov, deputy chief editor of Computerra magazine, believes that journalism, like many other human activities, should be considered both as creativity and as a craft. There is no clear distinction between these categories, but in the case of robo-media it is still visible well. If attempts to introduce automation of any kind into the creative process are perceived with hostility, then journalism as a craft, where the main thing is objectivity and efficiency, pushes personal evaluations to the background, and therefore refers to robotic data collection and analysis more loyally.

    One more sector of the market, which was actually created by robots, can be arbitrarily called the “information agency of the blogosphere”. Blogs have a lot of interesting information, but it is lost in a huge number of small information flows. Of course, sooner or later most of the interesting topics from the blogosphere surface, and the relevant facts become widely known. But the media in this case is in the end: to write that everyone already knows is a thankless task.

    Andrei Kalinin, project manager for, Search Technologies, sees robots as a tool to solve this problem. If a professional journalist painfully searches for a way to his reader, he notes, then a blogger often writes for his own pleasure, without increasing his audience by special means. Meanwhile, the informational value of blog posts can be no less than that of news agencies. Thus, a need arises for a new link between producers of information and its consumers. Tools for the automatic collection of news, their classification and filtering, are just such a link.

    Nevertheless, Boris Sorkin, managing director of the Regnum news agency, believes that robots will not be able to beat bread from traditional news agencies: “Robotization of traditional media may change the market dramatically, but I do not think that this will seriously affect the work of news agencies . After all, the information that the robot works with does not appear on the Internet by itself. Its source is precisely news agencies with their correspondent networks. Traditional reporter work is not going anywhere, its role can only grow. Indeed, the fact of the receipt of information from a news agency implies that it is based on the qualified work of professional journalists, and this distinguishes it from the same blogosphere. The thing will end with the fact that news agencies will simply have another type of information consumer - robots. Probably,

    The only thing that is holding back the massive attack of robots on the media market is that mechanisms for generating revenue from robo-media, or, as it is now fashionable to say, their “monetization”, have not yet formed. The main source of revenue for suppliers of robotic content today is a paid subscription to information, and the cost of the subscription is set so that the consumer "hire" a robot was more profitable than a person: it rarely exceeds five or six hundred. e. per month. At the same time, buyers of news feeds can earn by placing contextual advertising on them more than they spend on a subscription. However, the mass distribution of robots can and will certainly change this alignment.

    Sergey Leonov believes that, as in any other field, production robotization results in a decrease in the price of products. And that means that the cost of advertising may fall, due to which online media mainly exist. If this happens, you should probably expect an explosive increase in the number of low-budget information sites. And far from always it will be sites of proper quality. Moneymakers, as usual, use the opportunity to make easy money. According to various expert estimates, now in RuNet the share of “garbage” information sites that do not have any information value and serve only to place advertising links is 20-30%. As soon as the publication of information using robots becomes affordable, there will be more than half of such sites. In this case, the term “online news media” itself may will acquire a completely different meaning than it has now. Or even lose it.

    According to Nikolai Dokuchaev, the era of media is being replaced by the era of FDI - means of individual information. It, of course, is formed by robots that are trained to collect only what is interesting to a particular person at the moment. “Personally, for myself, I set up several areas - both for work and for the soul, where our robots find everything interesting to me. That is, I have my own personal media, ”says Nikolai Dokuchaev.

    Kommersant - Money Magazine No. 34 (689) of 09/01/2008
    Link to the original material

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