Content Bots Need Not Apply – Why Robots Can't Replace Human Content Writers

April 4, 2018

by Mike Shaughnessy

For decades, we've witnessed how machines could make our lives easier in TV and movies – Rosie the Robot cleaning up after The Jetsons, R2-D2 delivering Luke's lightsaber at a crucial moment in Return of the Jedi and the T-800 returning to save John Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day come to mind (we'll just skip over its role in The Terminator for now). Today, we carry a tablet or smartphone in our bag that can access the Internet to tell us the weather and news in an instant, and it knows when our close friends are in a picture thanks to AI.

Image of Wall-E character

Automation has been integrated into different industries in our society for years – building cars, analyzing software, and now, writing content for the Internet.

In some areas, automation does make life easier. For example, the auto-complete function on our phones learns our texting habits through repeated use, and it can guess fairly well what our next word choice would be. This is great when replying to a friend or significant other for small talk at the end of the day, but it's just not an ideal means of content development that will get your blog or company noticed.

When it comes to creative, nuanced industries, like content marketing and content creation, it's worth it to hire real, living, breathing human expert writers to craft the right message for you.

Will Expert Writers Be Replaced? Where the Technology Stands Today 

Back in 2015, Gartner made a prediction that by 2018, 20% of business content online would be authored by machines. Well, it's 2018, and while there have been gains in the content bot area, most of the articles written are based primarily on data and analytical information, including shareholder reports, legal documents, market reports and the like.

When thinking about content-writing bots, it's crucial to identify two of the leading technologies – NLP and NLG. NLP, which stands for Natural Language Processing, scans, reads and gauges what human language means within a predetermined range of accuracy. Natural Language Generation, or NLG, is AI that uses structured data and turns it into readable text. Siri and Alexa are modern technologies that most of us use every day that combine NLP and NLG to gauge what you're saying and respond accordingly.

Recently, The Washington Post developed its own content bot, Heliograf. This service was used during the 2016 Olympics in Brazil and during the 2016 Election. Heliograf analyzed data and delivered simple, fact-based content quickly, so newsroom writers and editors were free to cover more important stories with greater accuracy and depth.

Today, you can buy cheap alogorithm-generated articles from websites like Articoolo. However, these content creation bots aren’t ready to replace humans just yet. Here’s why:

5 Reasons Why Human Content Writers Are Still Better Than Robots

 1. Human writers can understand your buyers.

Bots may be great at analyzing massive amounts of data and information, and thanks to Isaac Asimov's 3 Laws of AI, we know they're phenomenal at following instructions (with the exception of that whole Skynet thing). However, bots lack the ingenuity to truly understand buyer personas. They’re unable to grasp who the buyer is and what they are looking for. 

Humans, in contrast, are able put themselves in the buyer's shoes. This helps the writer choose the right words for the audience, and it helps the writer build a connection with your audience. This connection can mean the difference between a content marketing campaign that’s a win and one that’s a complete disaster.

2. Human writers can have new thoughts and generate game-changing ideas.

Bots are unable to form their own opinions. Human content writers, on the other hand, have the unique ability to add new thoughts and angles to their writing. This is why a robot’s ability to analyze data and deliver fact-based content works, but the Op-Ed or Commentary pieces in The New York Times or Washington Post still require a human touch.

If you want your content to help establish your brand as an authority by providing thought leadership in your industry, it’s best to use content writers who are capable of more than simply rehashing existing thoughts.

Woman sitting at a laptop computer that says ideas

3. Human writers can provide accurate keyword research.

Keyword research is a critical part of creating content for the web. By having keyword research done, you help ensure that your content rises to the top of the search engine results page (SERP) and that when it gets there it reaches the right people. 

Content creation bots, like Articoolo, may produce algorithm-generated articles, but they don’t offer keyword research. And since context is really important to keyword research, it would be hard to put faith in a content creation bot if it did. The technology just isn’t there yet. 

With human brains doing the legwork of keyword research and taking the buyer persona into account, you can rest assured that the content development will be done correctly the first time.

4. Human writers can produce a consistent, relatable voice.

As I mentioned earlier, auto-complete is a technology that works well on our smartphones for simple text messages, but the AI can't recreate the consistent tone of voice that expert writers can deliver day in and day out. Voice is a crucial part of writing that draws the reader in, and allows you to convey your message. When you buy articles from a bot, the voice comes off as formulaic, inauthentic or disorganized. 

A great example of this is Google Home. When you ask it to tell you a joke, Google Home doesn't have the timing that stand-ups, improvisers and comedy writers spend years perfecting. When the jokes are delivered, there’s minimal distance between the setup and the punchline, making the payoff not as humorous. 

"A computer can’t read the content with a critical eye, and it can’t understand the vital complexities and nuances of language." – Content Marketing Institute

By having a friendly or relatable voice created by a human content writer, your content will engage the reader in a way that will drive them to click on and read your post. 

5. Human writers can engage your audience with storytelling.

As humans, we love a good story - storytelling is in our nature. And it is storytelling that gives the reader an experience a bot just can't replicate. Humans emote. We feel, laugh, cry and understand sarcasm. With this unbelievable ability to go through a gambit of emotions on a daily, sometimes minute-by-minute, basis, humans are able to write the content that your audience wants to read and share with others. 

Here are two recent examples that show why human writers still have the storytelling advantage and why content bots aren’t yet ready to take over for real-life content writers: 

Sunspring – The robot-generated movie script with no narrative 

In 2016, dozens of science-fiction screenplays were fed into a neural network at the character level. The result was a script for the short film, Sunspring, starring Thomas Middleditch. 

"What it didn’t pick up from all those screenplays was the art of narrative. Sunspring has no story. Its characters exist only in the sense that they’ve been given sentences to speak." - Harvard Business Review 

The failure of Sunspring to have a true narrative shows us that humans still have the upper hand when it comes to storytelling. 

Opening Day – It’s about more than just the facts 

This past weekend, teams in Major League Baseball had their Opening Days. If you had a content bot craft articles related to the games, you might receive content that provides the winning teams, the losing teams and the box scores. 

But the Opening Day is an event that baseball fans relish, and that’s why your article can’t afford to be written without a sports writer. Sports reporters can see the hope in the faces of the fans for the upcoming season, the desire to overcome heartbreak in the previous season's playoffs and they can craft stories about kids getting pulled out of school to see their favorite players in the game they love. They have the ability to paint a picture of the game for those who couldn’t watch it. Human writers use words, terms and specific jargon that sports fans relate to, making the articles authentic and one-of-a-kind.

Oscar Wilde quote typed out with a typewriter

For Content with Heart, Stick with Human Content Writers 

With advancing AI technologies, such as Heliograf, NLG and NLP, content writing can be done by bots, but their lack of understanding of the intricate complexities and nuances of language make the process an even costlier one.

By providing specific information to the bot, you may receive accurate blog posts, articles or product descriptions. But the bot cannot take your buyer personas into account, it won’t offer you correct or in-depth keyword research to land the articles at the top of the SERP, and the pieces will definitely lack the tone of voice, consistency and heart that content written by expert writers can deliver.

If you’re looking to buy articles for your website or blog that retain a human touch, one of our monthly content packages may be right for you.

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