Automated Insights Blog

Stay up-to-date with the latest product updates and new advancements from the leader in personalized content.

Important Meetings (video)

Apr 6, 2014

It’s silly to think we’d communicate an important message with tables, charts and graphs, but we do it every day with our most critical business information using the current BI solutions on the market.

Below is a video we made for our Google Demo Day presentation last week that illustrates this lunacy…

Announcing Wordsmith for Marketing, our First App on the Wordsmith Platform

Apr 2, 2014

We are pumped to watch our CEO make two huge announcements today at the Google For Entrepreneur’s Tech Hub Demo Day

Today on stage, we will launch Wordsmith, the next generation of our patented technology platform and the first publicly available application on that platform – Wordsmith for Marketing.  As part of the new launches, our home page has also received a refresh.  It’s been an exciting week.

The Wordsmith Platform

Wordsmith uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to transform Big Data into narrative reports. Wordsmith works by identifying patterns, correlations, anomalies and insights in data and then describing them in plain English, just like a human would.

We published over 300 million narratives using Wordsmith last year for big names like Yahoo!, The NFL, The Associated Press, Turner and Microsoft (just to name a few). This year, we will publish over a billion personalized stories.  Each of those stories leverages Wordsmith’s one-of-a-kind capabilities to dynamically put each user/employee/site in context historically, while comparing them to others like them and against the aggregate population.  With Wordsmith, our clients can create a unique story for each user, telling them exactly what they need to know about their data and helping them make better decisions.

Wordsmith for Marketing

The next step is to open up the power of Wordsmith for more people to use. Wordsmith for Marketing is the first “open access” application running on our platform that anyone can sign up for and use with their own data. Wordsmith for Marketing empowers marketing agencies to quickly prove their ROI with white-labeled, fully personalized narrative reports written for each of their clients.

Wordsmith for Marketing is an evolution from a Web Analytics beta that Ai launched last year. We had thousands of clients sign up for the beta, and we were able to gather powerful feedback. The most common source of that feedback was from marketing agencies who were clamoring for a customizable, automated solution to client reporting.  Many were spending well over $12K/month in staff time to sift through Google Analytics in an attempt to document the ROI they were providing. 

Based on feedback from the agencies who we gave early access to Wordsmith for Marketing , we believe we have found their solution.

Wordsmith for Marketing is like having your own data scientist scouring each client’s data and personally writing a summary for them every week, month and quarter. These reports are incredibly detailed, but more important, they are actionable and they describe the return-on-investment of the agency’s marketing efforts on behalf of the client.

The reports can contain over six pages of written performance analysis and data visualizations. These reports save an agency’s marketing team many hours per client per month, allowing them to focus on running campaigns and taking on new clients. The reports contain in-depth analyses of SEO, paid search, organic search, social media and content marketing efforts. The reports are scheduled and sent to the clients automatically — and, if desired, allow the agency to edit every word before they are sent.  That’s right, the agency can add to them and provide their own custom expertise, directly through the program’s report editor.  Pretty sweet.

What’s Next

One of the most powerful aspects of Wordsmith is that its patented technology is applicable at any scale, in any vertical and on any screen.  We believe it has the power to democratize content and finally give companies and users the ability to unlock the power of their data ­– driving understanding, retention and revenue. 

The future is an exciting one, and we’re just getting started.

By Adam Smith @adambsmith

Ai at Google and an Upcoming Announcement

Mar 31, 2014

We are excited to be presenting at the first ever Google For Entrepreneurs Tech Hub Demo Day this Wednesday April 2nd.  We were one of only 10 companies selected to participate nationwide and our CEO will present to over 100 VCs and receive feedback from a three-member panel, including Steve Case (Revolution), Steph Palmeri (SoftTech VC), and MG Siegler (Google Ventures).

There is nothing as satisfying in a growing company as working hand-in-hand with your customers to build a first-of-its-kind product that those customers can’t wait to get their hands on.  And that is what we have found recently and what we will announce live Wednesday.  The event will be livestreamed, so be sure to check it out as we will be making a major announcement at the event.

by Adam Smith @adambsmith

Study Finds Human Writing Indistinguishable from Automated Insights Content

Mar 6, 2014

A study published in the 2014 issue of Journalism Practice proved that not only was Automated Insights machine-generated content indistinguishable from journalist-created content, but that our automated content was viewed as more informative and more credible.

Christer Clerwall, from the Department of Media and Communication Studies at Karstad University in Sweden, conducted a pilot. For the test, 46 students in media and communications studies were given either a professionally-written NFL game recap from the L.A. Times or an automated recap of the same game from Automated Insights. They were asked to assess their article on both quality and credibility. They were also asked whether the article was written by a journalist or our engine.

Robot or Human

This certainly isn’t the first time Automated Insights has been directly or indirectly involved with a robot vs. human test. It’s something we always do in-house as a part of our normal QA process. Considering we’ve been at this for almost four years, we weren’t surprised at the results.

From the study:

"Of the 27 respondents who read the software-generated text, 10 thought a journalist wrote it and 17 thought it was software-generated. For the 18 respondents in the “journalist group”, 8 perceived it as having been written by a journalist, but 10 thought software wrote it. Using a Mann–Whitney test for significance, we can conclude that there is no significant difference (U = 225, r = −0.07, significance = 0.623) between how the groups have perceived the texts."

Remember, the test subjects were media and communications students, people who should have a good eye for this sort of thing. But spotting the difference isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially today. Our automated content engine can do things now that were seemingly impossible in automated content just a year ago.

Referencing non-statistical facts, for instance, like game-impacting injuries or blown official calls, is no longer a deal-breaker. In fact, we’re working on a project at this very moment with the ability to include “off-field” non-statistical information for an upcoming major sporting event.

Our very first attempts at college basketball articles, over three years ago, were able to determine “fan satisfaction” with an algorithm that tracked momentum vs. expectations for each team.

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Clerwall is convinced that the robots sound human:

"As far as this study is concerned, the readers are not able to discern automated content from content written by a human. Some aspects of quality, such as being clear and being pleasant to read, received a slightly higher score for human-written content, but others, such as trustworthiness, informative, and objective, were higher for the automated content."  

Credibility: Where the Machines Win

As I said, verification of the Automated Insights engine’s natural-sounding language is nice, but what’s even more satisfying is the notion at the end of Clerwall’s statement, in which he reveals that trustworthiness, objectivity, and the informative value of automated content received much higher scores than content written by a human.

He notes:

"The software-generated content can be said to score higher on descriptors typically pertaining to the notion for credibility."

And later:

"…the text generated by software is perceived as more descriptive, more informative, more boring, but also more accurate, trustworthy, and objective."

This is the true power of the Automated Insights engine. We’re comparable to a human in writing about events and outcomes that humans are already writing about, like a pro football game. However, when it comes to personalized automated content and the ability to suggest and recommend strategic improvements to the reader, the possibilities for Automated Insights are unlimited.

A great example of this can be found in one of our products, SiteAi, in which we unlock the key hidden insights in your website’s Google Analytics data and deliver the results in plain English via a daily or weekly email. These are articles that are impossible for a human to write, let alone at scale, and contain actionable suggestions based on the reader’s unique goals.

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That’s a game-changer.

In January, I wrote an article on the Quantified Self, in which I noted that it’s this focus and credibility that ultimately provides value:

“The beauty of quantification is that we can finally start using the web to discover and better ourselves instead of telling it what we think we want. Quantification doesn’t lie, nor is it susceptible to moods or bias. It’s almost like our own personal suite of business software.”

Automated Advisement from a Trusted Source

There’s not much personalization to be had in a pro football game. You either follow the team or you don’t. At best, we might be able to tell you when to put away the face paint until next year. However, when we apply our engine’s informative, accurate, and objective analysis to the data, whether it be a company’s sales data, a website’s analytics data, or your own personal workout data, we can make actionable and unbiased suggestions and recommendations that human writers can’t, especially on a massive scale.

That also happens to be, for lack of a better term, where the money is.

Clerwall concludes:

"If journalistic content produced by a piece of software is not (or is barely) discernible from content produced by a journalist, and/or if it is just a bit more boring and less pleasant to read, then why should news organizations allocate resources to human writers? Perhaps the speed, an important factor in adopting new technologies (cf. Örnebring 2010), will make up for the loss of “pleasantness”? If the audience can get automated content cheaper than content produced by journalists, with “less pleasant to read” as the main drawback—why would they want to pay?”

He’s absolutely on target. But take the corollary of that conclusion. If Automated Insights content is seen as more credible, then it stands to reason that the insights it produces, in human-sounding plain English and delivered from a trusted, unbiased source, are extremely valuable.

Automating the Analysis of the Best Experts in Digital Marketing

Jan 13, 2014

When people hear about how Automated Insights turns Big Data into narratives, they’re often incredulous. They ask whether automated content is as good as what a human can create. The answer is an emphatic “Yes!”

After all, even though machines create the articles, there are human experts teaching the machine what to write about. From our Yahoo! Fantasy Football match recaps to personal fitness devices, we’re proving that you can bottle up human expertise and replicate it to create millions of unique analyses that explain data, not just report it.

Now, we’re going to do the same thing for web analytics. We’ve had our SiteAi product available for several months now, and people love it. And today, we just announced that we’re going to tackle the biggest pain point for digital marketing agencies: creating monthly reports for their clients.

Head over to the SiteAi blog to read the full announcement and see how we’re going to save agencies $12,000 a month.

Our Year In Review

Dec 30, 2013

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2013 was a great year for Automated Insights. We published over 300 million personalized stories (that’s 9.5 stories for EVERY SECOND of the year!). We worked with great clients like Yahoo!, the NFL, Turner, Gannett, the Associated Press and Microsoft. And, we were recognized as the “Best Place to Work” and “Most Innovative” company in North Carolina.

Our own Brian Sewell nailed it in his video retrospective.  

While 2013 was great, we are looking forward to an even more exciting 2014.  300 million personalized stories in a single year sounds like a lot (more than all the major media companies combined). However, based on some upcoming implementations of our platform we expect to create close to 1 billion stories in 2014.

But before we turn the page on 2013, we thought it would be good to look back at the great times we had while breaking new ground in personalized content.

New Verticals and Clients

  • We launched Site Ai, which applies the power of personalized reporting to web analytics. Site Ai helps website owners and marketing agencies make sense of their web traffic through daily, weekly and (coming soon) monthly reports which put the results of Google Analytics into actionable, personalized narratives. 2014 will bring big new developments for Site Ai, so stay tuned.

  • We more than tripled our revenue while launching ground-breaking personalized content initiatives with over 20 new clients in a variety of industries and verticals.

  • In finance we worked with MSN, Datatrac, and others to create innovative content around stocks, portfolios and bank-related analysis.

  • In quantified self and personal fitness we launched multiple projects where users will soon experience how personalized narratives can provide dramatically improved understanding of their health through their sleep and exercise patterns.

  • In sales and internal reporting we kicked off a partnership with one of the largest insurance companies in the world to provide their sales team fully-personalized, action-oriented reports.

  • In fantasy sports we expanded our relationship with Yahoo! to include multiple personalized fantasy articles (draft recaps, match up recaps, league-wide recaps), as well as interactive trivia and multiple different articles around all the major sports leagues.  We also launched a strong partnership with the NFL.

  • We kicked off new exciting projects with groups like the Associated Press.

  • We published tens of thousands of articles a week covering real estate markets across the country for clients like HomeSnap

  • We were a launch partner for the Windows 8 mobile app marketplace with over 900 applications live for Windows 8 phones, tablets and PC’s.

  • We demonstrated the power of our real-time engine using 120 years of MLB data.  Real-time is an area we are doing more and more work in and will have much more to show in 2014.

  • And that’s just what we can share…

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Announcements and Awards

  • Our Patent on “Dynamically Generating and Presenting Narrative Content” was issued in August.  This is the first patent filed of its kind and provides an exciting start to our growing patent portfolio.

  • We were fortunate to have a lot of press coverage this year, but our favorite was Alexander Eule’s feature story on our work in Barron’s.  We believe he nailed the power of personalization through intelligent automation in this piece on our work with Yahoo!

  • We were selected as one of six “Big Data and High-Performance Computing” Semi-Finalists by Amazon Web Services in their Global Start-up Challenge.

  • Our CEO, Robbie Allen, spoke at a number of conferences and was named in the “50 to Watch in Business

  • We were ranked #1 out of 464 Business Intelligence companies by SIGNL as part of their Momentum Rankings.

  • We were honored to be named the “Most Innovative Company” by the North Carolina Technology Association.

  • And last but not least, we were thrilled to be named the overall Best Place to Work in NC by the Triangle Business Journal. It was the second year in a row we were named as a finalist and our first overall win.  This is a special one for us because it was voted on by all the nominated companies’ employees. We believe the right environment and teamwork are critical to getting the best work done and this award shows we are building just that environment for our team.

The Future is Bright

At Ai we believe in a future where everyone — from an individual line employee, to a store manager, to a fitness band user, to a fantasy sports GM, to a patient getting their lab results, to an end user looking for information they care about — has the ability to unlock the power of their own data.  A future where individuals can get insights about the key things they need to know in real time.  A future where the patterns and trends in an individual’s data are put into context, benchmarked against the aggregate population, and made actionable.  A future where everyone can be their own personal data scientist and make better decisions, more often.  

The best part is that with our technology platform, the future is now. 

2014, here we come.

by Adam Smith @adambsmith

Ai Wins Most Innovative Company Award

Nov 11, 2013

We are excited to have received two awards over the past month. The first  was for Most Innovative New Media Company from the North Carolina Technology Association and the second was the overall award for Best Place to Work in the Triangle by the Triangle Business Journal.

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We were up against some amazing companies for both awards and we are truly honored to have been named the winner for each. We are excited to see our team receive recognition for building a one-of-a-kind technology that is changing the world of personalized content, while working together to build a culture that will sustain ongoing innovation as we continue to grow. It is an exciting time at Ai, and we look forward to seeing what the future has in store for us! 

Thanks again to NCTA, the TBJ and to all the voters.   

Big Data and Yahoo’s Quest for Mass Personalization

Oct 2, 2013

We talk a lot about driving action from personalization at scale. However, the best way to really see the potential impact of unlocking big data through high quality automation is by seeing it in action.  One of the most public implementations of our technology is in fantasy sports where we are publishing multiple different types of articles for some of the leading providers in the space.

Alexander Eule at Barron’s noticed our work and drew the connection of the power of personalization to create sticky, hyper-relevant content in any market in his article on our work with Yahoo!.  

The article was in the print edition on September 2nd, is online here, and is included in full below. 

By ALEXANDER EULE

Yahoo’s fantasy football reports show how big data can personalize information and advertising.

Every once in a while, technology still manages to surprise me.

Just minutes after finishing my Yahoo -sponsored fantasy football draft last week, the Web giant sent me a very personal e-mail. Yahoo (ticker: YHOO) had quickly analyzed my draft picks and prepared a grade. I got a B-, in what amounted to my worst showing since college Spanish. I remember contesting that Spanish grade, but it’s hard to argue with Yahoo. The mark was accompanied by hard data, wrapped in a smartly written report.

It turns out that my team, TommyJohn, is the oldest in the 10-team league I share with friends. My players have spent an average of 7.3 years playing in the National Football League, according to the analysis. (Not an ideal scenario when you consider that the average NFL career is less than seven years.) Yahoo summarized my draft like this: “Despite selecting in the top half of the first round, TommyJohn looks a little soft on paper.” Ouch.

If fantasy football sounds trivial, here’s where it gets more meaningful: The report cards are a product of Big Data, the much-hyped but obscure concept dominating conversations in Silicon Valley. For most fantasy players, the report card is probably their first real Big Data experience, which remains largely theoretical in day-to-day life.

Big Data, of course, has far bigger applications than fantasy football. Eventually, our location—determined by mobile phone GPS—will be combined with social-networking profiles and other personal data, all in real time, to create a kind of marketing nirvana.

"Big data really becomes actionable and obvious to the consumer when who you are, what you’re doing, and where you are are all being used," says Jordan Rohan, who covers Internet stocks including Yahoo for Stifel Nicolaus. "We’re on the cusp of it."

In the meantime, sports is already ripe for a Big Data-type incursion. Hoards of statistics—new and old—can be culled into new and meaningful insights. And fantasy football owners, a rather obsessive sort, have always looked for any edge in improving their teams.

"They have an almost insatiable appetite for information, research and detail," says Ken Fuchs, the head of Yahoo Sports, which counts some 13 million fantasy players that spend an average of 29 hours a year on their teams.

Yahoo is using a start-up called Automated Insights to create its report cards. The Durham, N.C.-based firm looks for patterns, trends, and oddities in massive data packages and translates it all into plain English.

"Terms get bantered about and hyped," says Scott Frederick, who’s the chief operating officer of Automated Insights. "Now it’s big data and the cloud, but people struggle to understand what it really means. How does it bring value? What I love about our technology is the ability to do personalization at the data level and turn it into narratives," Frederick told me.

The firm began working with Yahoo’s fantasy group last year, but this is the first time they’re preparing draft reports, along with weekly game previews and recaps, all personalized for every fantasy owner. The company says it will deliver over 250 million personalized reports this season for Yahoo and other fantasy football partners. “We are able to generate and auto-publish over 1,000 a second,” Frederick says.

The processing power comes from the cloud. Automated Insights uses Amazon Web Services. “A few years ago this wouldn’t have been possible because the processing power that you need to generate these recaps is significant. But what we can do is spin it up for an hour or two and then spin it back down,” Frederick says, referring to Amazon’s rented computer power.

I spent at least 10 minutes on Yahoo’s site combing through my own fantasy report card, which also recommended still-available players who could plug my team’s now-apparent holes. That’s a long time with any personal e-mail, let alone one generated by a computer. Engagement, of course, is a key metric for advertisers. That’s surely not lost on Yahoo or its CEO, Marissa Mayer.

YAHOO SHARES ARE UP 73% since July 2012, when Mayer left Google to take on Yahoo’s challenging turnaround. Much of the praise for Mayer centers on things like improved apps, and her $1 billion acquisition of Tumblr, the social blogging site. Yahoo’s new Weather app is beautiful, no question, but I would argue that it’s a wave of content, like in the fantasy football report cards, that speaks to an even greater level of innovation.

In fact, Mayer outlined that thinking earlier this year at a Goldman Sachs investor conference. “I actually think that all of our experiences across desktop and mobile will ultimately become more personalized because at the core of Yahoo’s business is the ability to personalize content, bringing people the right information. But inside that content is also advertising.”

"That the ads and the content work together to really create a fantastic experience is what we’re really focused on," Mayer added. "And that’s where I think the future lies." Sure enough, my report card featured a Toyota ad that embedded the logo of a league-mate with the best draft performance.

Frederick, the COO of Automated Insights, concedes we’re still in the early first inning when it comes to Big Data’s real impact on consumers. “Data for data’s sake doesn’t create any value,” he says. “You need the insights and ability to decipher the insights.”

Automated Insights, with its natural language reports, is trying to be “that final mile of value for big data,” Frederick says. The firm was founded by a former Cisco engineer, Robbie Allen in 2007, as a new way to cover sports. Allen, who’s still CEO, originally called the company StatSheet. When Frederick arrived from a venture-capital firm in 2011, he worked with Allen to broaden the scope. “We realized we could do so much more than sports.” Today, the company is also providing personalized reports covering finance, real estate, health and fitness, and even corporate communications.

The start-up has raised a little over $5 million, thus far, and the payroll ranges from 20 to 30 employees. The small staff has its sights on big things. “We’ll produce basically more on a  +Tuesday morning than ESPN, CBS and FOX— the largest traditional media companies—will in a year, on sheer volume of stories,” Frederick says.

As both a journalist and someone struggling to win his fantasy football league, I’ll be paying careful attention. 

Ai in Orlando Today

Sep 18, 2013

Our CEO, Robbie Allen, is in Orlando today speaking at the Business Analytics Strategies Summit

Robbie will be speaking about Ai’s potential to turn data into action by moving past dashboards and helping people and businesses make the right decisions through the power of personalized narratives.

At Ai, we firmly believe that dashboards aren’t the answer. Dashboards don’t provide insights or deliver knowledge about data - in fact, they actually require interpretation from users.  They force users to try to extract meaning from visualizations they did not design and once extracted they require those users to make inferences as to what to do next. 

Computers are ideally suited to discover insights out of data, and leveraging our patented platform, we can fulfill the promise of automating the role of Data Analyst—i.e. analyze data and deliver insights about the data in plain English. However, unlike a human analyst, we can do it in real time and at scale.

The beauty of a narrative or a report written just for that individual user is that the content is always relevant, sticky and capable of driving informed action.  

And with informed action, companies can finally unlock the power of their big data assets.

by Adam Smith @adambsmith

Best Place to Work - AGAIN!

Aug 16, 2013

We are excited and honored to be selected by the Triangle Business Journal as one of the Best Places to Work in Raleigh-Durham area for the second straight year.

There are a lot of great companies here and, of all the awards we have won, nothing makes us more proud than one that celebrates our culture. We do our best to make our environment awesome because our people are what allow us to give data a voice.

So thanks to TBJ for the recognition and, more importantly, thanks to our people for making this possible!

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By Adam Smith, @adambsmith

About Automated Insights

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