Narrative Science’s ‘Robot Journalists’ Now Tackling Real Estate

We’ve reported before on Narrative Science’s “robot journalists” that use computer algorithms to turn sports stats into news stories. Now, the company has turned its efforts to real estate pieces, providing monthly reports on 350 housing markets for trade publisher Hanley Wood.

The New York Times reports that Hanley Wood and Narrative Science worked for months to adapt the software for construction.

Here’s an example of a Narrative Science-produced piece about home sales in New York:

New home sales dipped year-over-year in May in the New York, NY market, but the percentage decline, which was less severe than in April 2011, seemed to be signaling market improvement. There was a 7.7% decline in new home sales in 938 from a year earlier. This came after a 21.6% drop year-over-year last month.

In the 12 months ending May 2011, there were 10,711 new home sales, down from an annualized 10,789 in April.

As a percentage of overall housing sales, new home sales accounted for 11.4%. This is an increase on a percentage basis, as new home sales were 9.5% of total sales a year ago. Following a year-over-year decline last month, sales of new and existing homes also sank year-over-year in May.

It’s…surprisingly not terrible. The cost: $10 per 500-word article, or about what a Demand Media writer receives for the same work (meaning: Narrative Science’s cost to publishers is even less than Demand, once you factor in Demand’s overhead). This of course means that Hanley Wood can cover far more markets without adding any staff, but on the other hand, writing this sort of mindless report is not fun for most reporters anyway.

Narrative Science has 20 customers total, but execs there wouldn’t name the others. However, one of the company’s founders, Kris Hammond, made a startling prediction. Hammond, who is co-director of the Intelligent Information Laboratory at Northwestern University, said: “In five years, a computer program will win a Pulitzer Prize — and I’ll be damned if it’s not our technology.”

Publish date: September 12, 2011 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT