When chatbots became an even bigger talking point in the tech world last year, journalism was not immune from bot fever and that year newsrooms and publications released their own news bots. Some of these were bots with a US election theme, or specifically a Trump tweet theme. Some went down the more traditional route of recommending articles based on topics. Others tried to be quirky and human, and some were possibly built for the purposes of misinformation. This year, news bots are still going strong.
Writers are continuing the discussion about chatbots and journalism, and how the two entities overlap. Recently, I wrote an article about the current state of music bots and music journalism. I found that even though chatbots are beginning to act like music journalists, they are in no way displacing them – not even close. Looking at it from a different perspective, music journalists can benefit from this chatbot evolution. Playlist discovery bots and concert locator bots can be a useful tool for journalists. Chatbots that instantly provide the latest news about an artist have the potential to make a music journalists’ day more efficient. In the overlap between music journalism and chatbots, there is an opportunity to ‘create’ more time.
Speaking from my own experience writing about music, approximately forty to fifty percent of the time I spend on an article is spent doing research. This percentage varies depending on the topic, but generally, this is the norm. For a ‘top 5 songs’ article that takes fifty minutes to complete, twenty-five minutes is spent on the internet collecting references and information. For a feature that takes twenty hours over four days to write, a minimum of eight hours is spent doing research. There are exceptions – articles that are seventy percent research and thirty percent writing, and features that have been in my drafts folder for weeks because they are very much reliant on one hundred and twenty percent certainty.
I can’t speak for every journalist, but I thoroughly enjoy spending an afternoon gathering huge volumes of information about one single topic. It’s a form of healthy hoarding, and the world needs lots of hoarding journalists. Unfortunately, spending a day researching usually doesn’t mean money in your bank account, and if you’re doing this freelance or for nothing then any day spent not contributing good content to your articles feels like a waste. We would be living the dream if life didn’t make financial demands on our time, and sadly the realities of journalism and of music journalism are that they are difficult things to make a steady living out of. It takes time to write great articles, to break into the industry and to build an audience – this is where a guide to making your own personal music bot could be your time-saving strategy.
The reason why I’m recommending that you add a music bot to your journalistic repertoire is primarily down to the increased level of engagement it provides for your readers and the knock-on effect of ‘creating’ more time for you. The chatbot provides the opportunity for dialogue and two-way communication between you and your audience. Instead of an email being sent out to your readers, where the conversation ends as soon as they finish reading it, sending out weekly or daily updates in your chatbot allow your readers to respond in that same chatbot with feedback or their own thoughts on the topic. All of this means that you save time for the next update or the next article. You’re building a relationship with your audience. This level of engagement means you can tailor playlists for them. You can discover what is they are interested in. You can introduce them to new music and find out quite easily what they thought of it. It’s getting to know your demographic. One of the problems that journalism is facing is a problem of readership and of trust in the news, and in those who deliver the news. By allowing your audience to become part of the process, you are not only making your own job more efficient, but you might also be future proofing your own career.
The example I’m going to provide is a ‘Top 10 tracks for the week’’ chatbot guide.