Copywriting mastermind Robert Bly recently discussed an extraordinary new technological advance — writer-less writing. This program, the product of a company called Narrative Science, apparently synthesizes facts and figures to generate news stories and other articles. I was intrigued by this idea and stumbled on a New York Times piece that explores the technology and its applications in more detail.
The software does more than simply throw sports scores or stock prices into a blender and hit the mix button. It can accept and work with colloquial expressions and even choose a specific story angle, such as a come-from-behind win by a sports team. The resulting work is coherent, well organized and professionally presented. The folks at Narrative Science see an increasing role for this kind of computer-generated writing in journalism as the technology continues to advance.
So is it time for us writers to put away our laptops, pens and caffeine habits for good? I don’t believe so.
Take a look at the sample news brief referenced in the Times article. Underneath the smooth grammar and coolly professional tone, you basically get a sequence of events and statistics. Yes, the program communicates the significance of this data, but it can’t speculate on what might happen next or evoke the participants’ feelings on the matter. And it can’t imbue its work with its own feelings either, because it doesn’t have any. That’s okay for an objective report, but what about persuasive writing?
Real writers do much more than just write. When you hire a skilled, experienced freelance copywriter, you gain a creative partner as well as a scribe. I’m constantly asked for editorial guidance, creative brainstorming sessions, and opinions on what that next round of blog posts should explore or what tone a sales letter should employ. And yes, I rely on previous experience, collected facts and basic logic in my work — but I’m not stuck with those options. I can also leap beyond logic by drawing on such uniquely organic resources as intuition, humor, opinion and emotion. I can do more than just extrapolate story points from facts and figures. I can use those facts and figures as a launchpad for sailing into uncharted “What If” territory. Irrationality has its downside, but it also allows us to create, imagine, wonder and dream. That’s the extra edge a flesh-and-blood writer brings to the table.
Now if they ever start making computers as nutsy as humans, then we’re ALL in trouble.
For more about my writing services and current package deals, check out my website at www.reynoldswriting.com.