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How Much Should We Embrace “Robot” Journalism?

narrative-scienceLately, there’s been talk of an emerging phenomenon that gives a whole new meaning to the term computer-assisted reporting.

New technology being tested and used by huge names in journalism allows computer programs to parse complex data and statistics and compose the information into a readable news story.

In a recent American Journalism Review article, Samantha Goldberg reports on companies like Narrative Science and Automated Insights, two of the startups on the cutting edge in this debuting endeavor. Both companies use artificial intelligence to extract data and work it into a narrative after interpreting, analyzing and systematically translating quantitative content into something meaningful. Media companies like Forbes, the Huffington Post, Business Insider and Sports Illustrated have either backed the companies or are using their services to distribute content efficiently and with fewer staff members. Plus, it’s cheaper than paying living, breathing humans to write stories on topics that require time-consuming research, analysis and writing time. And, allegedly these pieces of software are so good that they are capable of structuring a news story while maintaining a decently conversational tone. Don’t know if I’d ever compare it to a human writer’s unique “style,” but Narrative Science and Automated Insights’ algorithms make it so that the news stories aren’t impossibly dry.

Read more

What Summly’s Acquisition Says About Online Journalism

Yesterday, hot on the heels of its recent spate of acquisitions, Yahoo! picked up an interesting little app started by a 15-year-old kid in his family’s London home. The app, Summly, was rumored to be picked up by the search company for a cool $30 million, and it stands to change the way Yahoo! looks at news generation.

More importantly, Summly has the potential to revolutionize how digital news is ingested, both online and on mobile.

The impetus for Summly came to teenage Nick D’Aloisio when he realized that the physical activity of sorting through and reading his daily online news was just exhausting. Founded in 2011, Summly cut down news articles by distilling their words into simple, 400-character summaries and displaying them on a mobile interface that catered to the user’s specific tastes.

Check out Summly’s concise description, with Stephen Fry, below: Read more

3 Tech Trends That Show Journalism of the Future

CES is the ultimate in tech tools for all kinds of people, and with the level of hardware that the 2013 installment has already showcased in just its first day, there’s plenty to drool over.

Even better, companies have unveiled some awesome trends and gadgets that you’re likely to see in your journalism arsenal in the near future. If you’ve got some extra pocket money to spend or if you’re just a glutton for punishment, feast your eyes on some of the best and hottest tech trends that will take your reporting skills to the next level.

What gadget trends are you most excited for? Let us know in the comments.

1. Smart Cameras

Who said the consumer point-and-click camera is dead? While many have touted the technology as a tool that is becoming rapidly outmoding by smarter technology (see further down on this list for a fair argument), companies haven’t stopped iterating the camera — and have come out with some great products in just the few short hours CES has gone live.

The smart camera has actually breathed new life into Polaroid — the company just released their first series of Android-powered products on the showroom floor. The camera’s native OS allows users to immediately integrate their photo stream with social media accounts, and provides for automatic uploads with a WiFi connection. It’s easy and simple — and it can make sharing during breaking news even more streamlined than it is now.

If you’re looking for a more traditional product, then there’s no shortage of more classic cameras, albeit with a couple of upgrades. One of the biggest trends, adopted by greats like Sony and Nikon, is an upgrade of the camera’s image sensor. With a suped-up camera, you’ll be able to shoot better than HD (and faster, too). Models like the Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100 have the potential to fool everyone with its DSLR-like quality in a handy point-and-shoot system.

These investments have the possibility to be worth their weight in gold, and it’s likely that the consumer camera industry will be putting out more high-tech and high-quality models in the future. Why not splurge?  Read more

Google Glasses: Augmented Reality or Dystopian Horror?

Google is expected to start selling glasses by the end of the year. No, they are not foraying into optometry, but rather finding a new way to stream the contents of your smartphone straight at your eyeballs.  The glasses, which reportedly resemble a pair of Oakley Thumps, will run on Android and be equipped with 3G, 4G, GPS and a low-resolution camera. Other Google technologies like Google Latitudes and Maps could superimpose information to augment your reality—say, tell you what’s nearby, or what your friends think of that restaurant.

The glasses, which are expected to cost around the price of a smartphone ($250-600), would have a small screen a few inches from the wearer’s eye. Seth Weintraub at 9 to 5 Google reports that head tilting would be used to navigate the device, which will be easy to learn, becoming “second nature and almost indistinguishable to outside users.” But one man’s augmented reality could be another’s dystopian horror. The New York TimesNick Bilton thought perhaps the future bodes “throngs of people in thick-framed sunglasses lurching down the streets, cocking and twisting their heads like extras in a zombie movie.” Read more

Good Times for Long-Form Journalism?

It seems that despite the ever-quickening speeds of information travel, long-form journalism is adapting and thriving in the new media environment. Yesterday, Longform.org released its iPad app, one that doesn’t merely plop the website in app form, but tries to tailor the experience directly for the iPad user. Its design is sleek and minimal, and users can save articles with Readability, Instapaper and Read It Later.  One can subscribe to Longform.org’s most popular sources, including magazine favorites like The New Yorker, National Geographic, The Atlantic; Internet denizens The Awl and Grantland; and even fellow aggregators Longreads. Read more

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