Solutions Partner

Junior sports is new focus for automated reporting

Forum Communications' The Rink Live is latest site to go live

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Local publishers in Europe and North America are increasingly using automation to cover junior sports leagues, as part of a strategy to build engagement in local sports communities. Forum Communications' ice hockey vertical, The Rink Live, in the U.S. upper Midwest, is the latest site to go live with robot texts. "Technology affords us unique opportunities to cover more teams, more players, in an efficient and creative manner," says General Manager Neal Ronquist.

This content automation technology (created by United Robots) is based on structured data. Word, clause and sentence alternatives are written by humans, and data points are inserted (examples of data points include: final score, team names, next game date, etc.) — generating thousands of combinations of sentences to create unique, factual articles. What United Robots does is scale up human writing, rather than build robots that use machine learning to mimic human writing.

Using robots to write local sports game reports was the original content automation use case for the early adopter publishers in Scandinavia. For local media group Mittmedia (now part of Bonnier News Local), the use of robots for game reports was part of a wider strategy to improve local sports coverage and thereby the value of the subscription offer. While the robots did the bulk reporting of matches across sports and leagues, reporters had time to do more in-depth stories, live streaming of games and other sports journalism that drove both conversions and retention.

The new focus on automating junior sports we see among local publishers, has a similar basic journalistic and business logic to it. For The Rink Live, which went live with automated junior hockey game reports in March this year, the move is about providing a more comprehensive coverage of ice hockey in the region. The site, which is operated by a dozen staff from parent company Forum Communications, publishes stories, videos and other unique content about youth, high school, junior, college and professional hockey across Wisconsin, Minnesota and North and South Dakota.

The Rink Live is using robots to cover the USHL and NAHL junior hockey leagues. Ronquist say, “I am excited to partner with United Robots to expand our content offerings to our readers. Nothing can replace the work of our talented journalists. Technology does, however, afford us unique opportunities to cover more teams, more players, in an efficient and creative manner. As we learn more about what our audience members value, we will continue to explore all avenues to increase the amount of unique, engaging hockey content we deliver.”

In parallel with the deployment of content automation, The Rink Live has added reporters to focus on youth, juniors and prospects, as well as staff and resources to increase social media presence on TikTok, YouTube and Instagram, including through several new video shows. The additional staffing, the expanded unique content including more video, and the deployment of robots, all adds up to provide what The Rink Live describes as "more robust hockey coverage for fans."

More cases of local publishers automating game reports:

  • DC Thomson in Scotland publishes match reports from junior soccer leagues, complete with coaches' comments submitted via SMS and automatically inserted in the texts.
  • The Brunswick News in northeast Canada uses robots to cover local junior hockey leagues.
  • In the Netherlands, NDC is covering all 60,000 local soccer games in the first post-COVID season.

Visit our website to learn more about United Robots and our automated content products. https://www.unitedrobots.ai/

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