Is MarketBrief the future of business journalism?
Erik Sherman of BNET.com writes Wednesday about MarketBrief, which uses a computer program to generate thousands of stories each day from Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
Sherman writes, “Co-founder Jason Zucchetto says that the current idea came from the company’s original idea of creating a better alternative to Edgar, the SEC’s system for retrieving corporate filings. ‘People were still emailing us saying we have no idea what this [wording] means,’ he says. ‘How can we transform the filings into plain English and easier-to-read articles?’
“The answer will make a lot of reporters howl in pain. The three people at MarketBrief, working out of a Mountain View, Calif., townhouse, coded a template system. Filings of a single type — say a Form 4, which documents stock trades by officers, directors, and other insiders – have the same type of information. MarketBrief’s system pulls the company specifics out of a given form and then places them into the appropriate spots in an explanatory template. It’s like financial MadLibs, only the content and the context fit together.
“For many types of forms, the time from getting the data from a direct SEC feed to generating a report is a few seconds. Some types of forms, like an 8-K current report, are more complex and require a manual review of the results. But even that process only takes a few minutes, according to Zucchetto. ‘We’re basically double-checking our software,’ he says. ‘It will ask us a bunch of questions and say, ‘Does this look correct?’’
“Aside from speed, MarketBrief has another major advantage over human reporters: the ability to correlate huge amounts of data. A report of insider trading can comb through previous reports for the same company and the same person to provide history of other possibly related trading activity. This is work that could easily take a human an hour or two.”
Read more here.