Tuesday, July 5, 2016

How to Conquer the Robowriters

By 2020, 75% of news coverage will be written by bots, says content marketing guru Mark Schaefer.

"When it gets to the point that a computer can consistently generate content at a level that passes the Turing Test, the economics of content in every form will change forever," Schaefer says. "The freelance writer will become an endangered species."

Schaefer offers freelancers four strategies to beat the bots:

Emote. Good writers transcend their content by connecting emotionally with readers. It hardly matters what they write about; we still want to read it.

Dive. Position yourself as an expert and a "trusted voice of experience," because no bot can "corner the market on true insight."

Engage. Express some original thoughts, or at least express others' thoughts originally. If you only offer commodity content, "it’s going to be game over." Cede content like "10 Twitter Tips" to the bots.

Rebel. Be a part of readers' "bot-free zones." Just as consumers pay a premium for organic, local and artisanal, readers will prefer writers who shun "bot-speak." Keep your content human.

My view is that skilled freelancers needn't fret:
  • Mathematician Émile Borel said a century ago, if you provided an infinite number of monkeys typewriters, eventually they'd produce Hamlet. Bots may not represent an infinite troop, but they're 'still a boatload of monkeys. As Uber will do to taxi drivers, bots will soon disintermediate low-skilled writers (it's funny that both are called "hacks"). The great social sewer will awash in robowriting—a genuine improvement.
  • But while bots can produce passable news stories, it's hard to imagine them attracting followers. The reason is simple. As great writing teachers (Donald Hall, for example) have always told students to rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, because the good writer is full of doubt; she knows her prose isn't inviolable and that the good stuff only emerges from the fifth or sixth or seventh draft. But computers aren't writers; they're robots. They'll never rewrite their stuff, because they lack self-doubt. Have you ever met a computer that doubted its own solution to a problem?
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