Artificial intelligence (AI). Just saying the words invokes visions of an apocalyptic future teeming with deadly machines like The Terminator or even software like The Matrix's Agent Smith. At least that’s the dystopia the scaremongers are peddling. If the latest hype is anything to go by, AI will not only change life on earth as we know it, it will probably take your job too.
As an editor, content marketer and millennial, it appears my head is on the chopping block. Gartner predicts that by 2018, 20 per cent of business content will be authored by machines, and many are speculating that journalists will cease to exist. Add Elon Musk comparing AI to a demon, and even I’m spooked.
But I won’t pack up my desk just yet. Here’s why.
We’re surrounded by AI
Let’s be honest: this is nothing new. Artificial intelligence, machine learning and automation have been around for quite a while, and we’ve all been targeted by Facebook’s AI-applied targeted advertising and subject to Google AdWords’ AI-powered, automated bidding for years.
Your top picks on Netflix? AI technology fuels its recommendation engine. Apple’s personal assistant, Siri? She’s machine learning to better predict, understand and answer your questions. Google? Depends on AI to rank your search results.
But the machines haven’t taken over yet. Despite it trickling into everyday life, AI is still in its infancy. Instead of conjuring images of alien robots, we should really think of the technology as a baby Bicentennial Man in nappies – waiting for us to teach it.
AI is growing up fast
To be useful for content marketing, AI needs a mammoth amount of fresh, structured data.
Its power lies in its ability to analyse large data sets to reveal patterns and trends. Feed it enough high-quality data and it will be able to predict share prices or a human's lifespan and, in some cases, even write content.
Natural language generation (NLG) is a type of AI software capable of producing coherent, readable text. NLG robo-journalists are already creating basic sports content and corporate earnings reports. But, as smart as it is, NLG isn’t truly independent – it needs very specific data sets and templates before it can write, and it can’t create anything genuinely new.
Still, that doesn’t mean we can’t use the technology. In the realm of content marketing, AI can gather, sort and make sense of oceans of data – something the industry is swimming in.
AI: Spotting trends, making predictions
Ask any marketer and they’ll tell you they’re ‘data driven’.
Sure, we’re data driven. We look at engagement metrics to tell us what’s working, and change things accordingly to make them work better and inform future decisions. But it’s generally retrospective.
A lot of what we do is still based on instinct. We still speak to real people. We still search online to understand what people are asking. We still study search volumes.
What we need is the ability to predict something before it needs to be changed. This is where the opportunity for AI is in content marketing right now.
Exciting stuff for a content marketer working in a media and data intelligence business. We’re already using our own AI to process seven million news items every day, at a rate of 234 stories per second.
With that much data, our software can make strong recommendations about what type of content we should be creating, and for whom. As it evolves (and learns), it should be able to spot trends and patterns early, informing communications strategies and helping businesses to maximise opportunity and minimise risk.
Humans and AI, living together
AI and predictive analytics will help content marketers understand who they should be talking to and what they should be saying, but it’s up to us to create the content.
AI relies on human data and intelligence to function and learn. At least for now, this is where its limitations lie.
Humans are still needed to create original work that connects with its audience at an emotional level. To completely replace a writer or content marketer, AI would need to have an opinion, think abstractly, be curious and show emotion.
So, while your inbox might be full of propaganda alluding to our impending cyberdoom, we’re not there yet.
However, we shouldn’t be naïve, as the way we work is being transformed. To stay in the game, we should spearhead the change rather than hiding in the corner.
I for one welcome working with our new robot overlords, and I urge you all to join me. As the machine said, “Come with me if you want to live.”
Disclaimer: This article was not written by a robot.
Paige Richardson, Isentia Strategy & Content