RADAR signs its first paying subscribers for stories jointly written by journalists and AI

The UK news service pioneering the use of artificial intelligence to help journalists scale up the production of local news stories has progressed from its beta trials to a subscription-funded service.

RADAR (Reporters and Data and Robots) has signed its first paying customers for content produced jointly by journalists and artificial intelligence.

The service received launch funding in 2017 from Google’s Digital News Initiative (DNI) Innovation Fund – a €150m commitment to stimulate and support innovation in digital journalism across Europe’s news industry.

Eight media companies have subscribed to the service since January 2019, with conversations continuing with other publishers and broadcasters. In total, 329 print, digital and broadcasting outlets are incorporating content created jointly by journalists and AI into their output for local audiences across the UK.

Among RADAR’s first subscribers are regional newspaper publishers ArchantBaylis MediaJPI MediaIliffe Media and MNA Media. Also included are independent community news services, Caerphilly Observer and Newscraft, as well as UKRD Group, which owns and operates 10 commercial radio stations.

RADAR’s team of six journalists identify, write and template newsworthy stories from open data sets held by government departments and agencies, health services, police forces and other public bodies. A bespoke production system with Natural Language Generation (NLG) technology at its core is then used to localise the stories for hundreds of print, online publications and broadcast outlets.

Business model

RADAR content is divided into 391 local channels, which represent each of the UK’s local authority areas.  Customers can choose to subscribe to one or many areas for an annual fee.  Stories are accessed via the dedicated website –  https://app.radarai.com – or can be delivered via API.

RADAR journalists work on an average of 40 data projects each month, resulting in around 8,000 localised stories across a range of topics such as crime figures, hospital waiting times and pupil absences from school.

All stories are delivered with stock images as part of the subscriber offering, with some also accompanied by simple graphics.

RADAR was launched by PA, the national news agency for the UK and Ireland, and data journalism start-up, Urbs Media, to deliver high volumes of data-driven news to regional and hyperlocal news outlets.

In February 2019, the government-commissioned Cairncross Review on the future of sustainable journalism in the UK, said that RADAR “holds particular promise” for public interest journalism.*

Gary Rogers, Editor-in-Chief of RADAR, said:

“RADAR has evolved from a Google-backed experiment in data journalism to a subscription-based business providing an essential service to local and regional media in the UK. Our model makes the service equally accessible to small hyperlocals and larger operations with many titles to cover.

“Our pilot testing gave us valuable insights into how RADAR content can be integrated into publishers’ workflows. We remain in conversation with all those partners to see where we can make RADAR a permanent part of their offering, and for current subscribers, to create more features that add value to the service in our next phase of development.”

Pete Clifton, Editor-in-Chief of PA, said:

“It is heartening to see RADAR’s ground-breaking approach to combining human journalism with automation taking root in the UK media landscape. Since the pilot got underway at the end of 2017, we have grown an editorial team of six and seen news outlets use RADAR content in a variety of ways.

“I look forward to seeing RADAR continue to develop as a business for the media, and ultimately beyond the media sector too.”

RADAR began piloting in December 2017 and launched a full beta in June 2018. To date, the service has filed more than 100,000 articles.

ENDS