April 3, 2015#


According to this NY Times article, a surprising number of news stories are written by robots. Algorithms are now so sophisticated they can identify patterns of speech, mix in financial results or box scores from a baseball game and, faster than you can say Holy Shizzle, Batman!, out comes a story. The industry term is “automated narrative generation” and it’s here to stay.

It’s not just the news industry that’s embraced this technology. Marketers are using it. There’s an outfit called Persado whose tagline is “End The Guesswork of Copywriting.” They generate and test hundreds of thousands of word combinations to improve response rates. I’m told they won an award for “Don’t miss out” and “Thanks for being a customer.” Really?

Whatever happened to insightful copy that understands its audience in deeply human terms? I don’t believe a machine can replace human experience. It can beat me at chess, but it can’t know what it feels like to see a sunset, hold your baby or laugh so hard milk comes out your nostrils. Still, I’m worried about the future of copywriting. I’ve been in meetings where clients are more interested in the number of SEO terms on a webpage than in the quality of the copy. We’re on a slippery slope. And we’re in danger of losing touch with our humanity.