A software program is now generating hundreds of local stories per month on Hanley Wood's Builder Online site. The beta program, developed by Narrative Science, uses the same basic approach that enabled a computer to create short game stories by using baseball box scores.
Andy Reid, president of eMedia and Hanley Wood Marketing Intelligence, said Hanley Wood has three main goals for the local stories, which are generated using data from HWMI.
First, the stories will provide coverage of local markets that Hanley Wood, which traditionally has had a national focus, doesn't have the editorial resources or budget to cover in depth. Ideally, that will attract a stronger local audience to Builder Online.
Second, the stories in about 350 local markets are intended to create more local inventory. “This is a five-times expansion of the editorial content on the Builder Online site that previously carried about 100 mostly national and regional stories per month, all of those written by human editors,” Chuck Richard, VP-lead analyst at Outsell Inc., wrote in a report on this data-driven editorial program.
“At its simplest level,” Reid said, “more volume equals more advertising.”
These additional stories provide Hanley Wood's sales staff with more inventory to sell to local construction industry suppliers. This additional inventory should also provide access to the local budgets of national advertisers. “It opens up a larger advertiser budget to go after,” Reid said.
Third, the use of HWMI data, which can include local information on home unit sales, home prices and foreclosures, may attract additional buyers of HWMI's information products, Reid said. “The story templates are infinite,” he said. “These are just the ones we're launching with.”
Hanley Wood plans to go live with the new local coverage next month. Additionally, it intends to launch monthly e-newsletters in its 350 local markets.
The approach of data-driven, automatically produced editorial solves many of the problems associated with the production of local content, Reid said. For one thing, it's significantly cheaper than using freelancers. It's even cheaper than Demand Media, Reid said.
Because of the low cost, he said, Hanley Wood has time to get over the two other hurdles associated with making money from local content: amassing an audience and selling advertisers.
Reid said he sees uses for data-driven editorial in a variety of b-to-b markets. He mentioned, for example, agricultural publishers, which have access to local commodity prices, critical to the livelihoods of farmers.
Outsell's Richard said market research and financial services companies may be able to use the information they have on hand to create data-driven journalism.
Richard also sees a large potential for b-to-b media companies that are already selling data in their markets.
“For the few b-to-b trade publishers who have deep and constantly changing data, this is a gold-mine technique for creating customized, localized content at very, very low cost,” Richard wrote. “This type of content builds engagement, audience loyalty and local, high-value inventory for local ad revenue.”