Bring On The Blogging Robots

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Earlier today TechCrunch reported that the Associated Press (AP) will employ robots to produce some of its earnings coverage. Given how much I enjoy covering every semi-semi annual earnings season, I’m downright excited about the development.

Not that I write for the AP — or want to. (I hear they frown on making up words and idioms and generally saying things like damn and so forth, how restricting!). But I can now see a future in which my scribbling is aided by fast and smart tools that, when it comes down to the most rote moments of my job, lighten the load.

Earnings season makes most reporters want to poke their eyes out with sharp objects. But that, I think, is mostly due to the massive amount of stress that comes with frantically covering numbers that drop all at once, in competition with every other financial reporter on the planet.

You have mere moments to not only get the brand-spanking-new figures into your post, quickly craft a headline, figure out what the larger story is (falling net profit? expanding operating margin? massive increase in sales costs? lost an executive?) while also doing raw numerical comparison, pitting the street’s estimates, both GAAP and not, against what the company reports.

Or in the case of Tesla, while also trying again to figure out what its non-GAAP revenue really means.

It’s quite a lot to do in, say, negative two minutes. And then there’s the best caveat: Investors are in the same boat. Sometimes a company will report earnings that look shiny in the Firefly sense, but after 10 minutes, any after-hours gains have been utterly torched by investors and the company is underwater.

This is what that looks like:

Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 3.57.53 PM

And of course at the same time you’re trying to frame the earnings in a broader context:

  • What does this mean for its sector?
  • If the company is newly public, do its earnings either help or hinder the IPO window?
  • This OEM had a tough consumer quarter but strong business revenue. Does that mean the Microsoft Windows top line will be higher?
  • And so forth.

If I could offload the most quotidian of the above, say, crafting a standard paragraph that compares results with forecasts, and save myself a few seconds, I’d be all for it. No one reads TechCrunch, or me I suppose, because our prose when comparing fiscal third quarter diluted earnings per share on a non-GAAP basis to market expectations is especially riveting.

But I think that people do seek out reporting and analysis that helps make those numbers mean something. And show me the robot that can do that. Hell, I can’t most of the time, and I’m human. And I really try.

So bring on the goddamn robots, I say. AP, I have about $18. Can you email me one?

IMAGE BY FLICKR USER CHRIS ISHERWOOD UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0 LICENSE (IMAGE HAS BEEN MODIFIED)