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Robo-journalism and the writing on the wall

The pace of development in translation technology is eye watering. Translation services from companies like DeepL and Google are posing threats to multiple industries and jobs as the technology behind their software becomes increasingly refined.

This is leading to money being pumped into the area of computational linguistics from all angles. As a result, over the last year or so, robo-journalism — the process of automatically writing complete and complex news stories without any human intervention — has gone from being mistaken for a rejected Robo-Cop spin off to a very real possibility that has Reuters and News Corporation a little hot under the collar.

But what could this mean for market researchers? Well, the basic principle behind robojournalism is that large amounts of text (say, a focus group transcript) can be processed into coherent summaries, discursive essays or blurbs. With transcription technology also well on the way to high accuracy rates, within a few years the astute ear and eye of a good qualitative researcher could also soon be matched by computer software. Will moderating be the sole researcher’s skill to survive the inevitable wave of automation? Or will the arrival of robo-journalists be followed shortly by robo-moderators (unlikely to be coming to a cinema near you!)?


Tom Cooper
Qualitative Researcher, The Nursery Research & Planning Ltd

This article was first published in InBrief magazine, June 2018
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2018