Why Human Writers Aren’t Going Anywhere

Despite the Growth of Automation, Here’s Why Human Writers Aren’t Going Anywhere

by | Jul 7, 2016 | Copywriting

“Hello, this is Sarah with Express Writers?”

“Yes, hi. We’re a content automation company and need your services.”

“I’d love to help. Can you explain your needs?”

“Well, we’ve built software to create content that hits target audiences and is personable, but we really need human writers to add words and basically clean up the text.

How good are your writers?”

“They are great at writing–they’re actually human! We’d love to help.”


I wish I could say we snuck in that sarcastic sentence at the end, but Sarah is actually much nicer than that.

She’s one of our Content Specialists who answers our phones daily—and that was a call she got earlier this year.

We aren’t disclosing company names for privacy reasons, but believe us when we say that a large automation company actually called in after they saw us on Google to confess that their “content automation” needed the human touch.

And they’re not the first company to feel that way.

[clickToTweet tweet=”In order to succeed today, you need to get personal, and this is something only actual people can do. -@ExpWriters” quote=”In order to succeed with today’s customers, you need to get personal, and this is something only actual people can do well. This isn’t likely to change anytime soon.”]

Why Automation Will Never Replace Human Writers

human writers

Did you know that 79% of top companies have been using some form of content automation for the last two years?

At Express Writers, we use and love tools that allow us to automate some form of our content marketing process: i.e., Buffer for scheduling social media posts and visuals, KWFinder for honing down the best keywords online, and SEMrush for site audit and online presence analysis.

But here’s why automation won’t come close to replacing the human writer.

The written copy, the created content that fuels the automation, is always created by humans.

Sure, you can plug the copy in any automation tool you want after it’s done, but first: you need real copy, crafted by a human.

We rely on human copywriters to create every bit of human content that fuels our content automation part. We have a social media copywriter writing unique posts for every single scheduled post automated to go out in Buffer. We have a blogger and a content editor involved in the process it takes to create every single blog post of ours.

The day a business or brand stops relying on humans for the creation part of it all, is the day they set themselves up for failure.

On a more technical side, a few years ago WebProNews interviewed the CEO of a leading automation company, and reported that human writers aren’t going anywhere yet, because of the need for the human perspective and qualitative analysis in online content.

To further this point, let’s look at what went on when content automation has been attempted. (Because let’s face it, trying to engineer the next automated writer replacement has happened.)

A lot…went wrong.

The Facts: Stories of Content Automation Attempts that Failed

Take a look at content automation that went wrong.

Buffer: A Leading Social Media Tool Closes their Social Content Automation Feature

Remember the tools I mentioned that we use?

Well, one of them, Buffer (a leading social media tool) used to allow you to automatically schedule already-created posts. These were curated and pulled for you in a Suggestions feed. With one click, you could add their “suggested posts” to your feed and schedule – without even reading the content that you’re sharing.

It looked like this:

buffer suggestions


Guess what happened to that handy-dandy social media automation feature?

They did away with it, announcing that it was closing in 2015.

buffer suggestions closes


In their own words–it didn’t hold up to the standard of value they believed in, across social media. It encouraged the sharing of content that wasn’t personalized to the person sharing it.

Here’s what they said in the announcement:
buffer suggestions closes

(P.S. We love Buffer all the more for their commitment to truly valuable content sharing in social media.)

Now, let’s go deeper.

The last time someone tried to use actual robots for the most important part of content marketing, the writing part, things went terribly wrong.

Let’s explore the automation failures of history to show you exactly how that happened.

Content Automation Gone Terribly Wrong: The Story of Spinners & Content Farms

During the days of yesteryear, sneaky content creators tried to devise a way to spin out tons of “quality” content without bothering with hiring actual humans to write, edit, and post it.

They did this through a series of “black-hat” SEO tactics including content spinning, content mills or farms, and scraped content.

I’m going to break down the key two methods used back then: article spinning, and content farming.

#1: Article Spinning (Spun Right Down the Drain)

There were actually programs called article spinners – and they still exist today.

Take a look at the gibberish that “Free Article Spinner” gives you, once you type or copy in a block of text, enter their captcha, and hit Spin. (Yes, this program is still out there!)

article spinner results

Content spinning, using article spinners like these, used to actually be a thing.

Black hat SEOs used spinning software to take one article and “spin” it into dozens of new articles at the push of a button. As seen above, content spinning often resulted in low-quality, unintelligible writing that human readers couldn’t even decipher.

Google Panda Farmer is one of the main reasons no one is spinning articles anymore. It was one of the biggest algorithms that ever happened (it went down early February 2011), striking down over 11% of the spam on the web, de-ranking all duplicate and most of the spun content, and decreasing by 90% the rankings of big sites like Ezinearticles.com, hubpages.com, Answers.com, Articlesbase.com, and similar places that housed a lot of cheap, thin content written only for SEO. (See a more indepth analyses of Farmer on Searchmetrics.)

I like to think that Farmer was Google’s announcement to the web that it’s algorithm was human-based: created for humans, by humans. Not some robotic crap that you could “game.”

#2: Content Mills (or Farms): Not Your Old McDonald’s

Besides article spinning, there was also such a thing called “content mills”, or “content farms.” To produce a huge number of articles in a short period of time, these mills (usually offshore) used hundreds of writers to crank out low-quality content predominantly aimed at satisfying keyword requirements. Their writers, overworked beyond belief, ended up producing content that doesn’t even sound human.

Interestingly enough, big box brands were actually the ones behind many content farms–with the writer ending up getting paid between $2-4 an article, or if you were lucky, $5 and sometimes more. There’s a public email on SEObook.com showing a very typical email from a content farm.

Read the below and keep in mind that 200 orders could be 200 x 10, 100, or 1,000 articles per order = hundreds to thousands of articles in one week, for one brand, written to form and with no originality or thought.

big brand reveals content farm happening

That email is very typical.

How do I know?

We’ve encountered these brands ourselves, and I was wrapped up in being their employee back in the olden days (2011-early 2012, pre-Farmer).

Names must be kept secret since we signed an NDA, but you would not believe the common stores you walk into and their content creation process. The ones we encountered were hiring Indian offshore managers to manage their “human content” creation process, and then those Indians were doing some serious nickel-and-diming across the human writers they tried to hire and then demand crazy amounts of work from.

I hope all those brands are learning their lesson.

To the writer reading this: never settle. Ever. 

Because the writer still taking work at pennies are the ones keeping those mills alive.

And with that, let’s move on to what the online content landscape looks like today.

Why Fresh, Custom Content Wins Today (& How Google is the Driving Force)

Throughout the last few years, Google has continued to release algorithm updates aimed specifically at punishing low-quality sites and scraped, duplicate, or low-quality content and rewarding high-quality sites that feature expert content written by real people. It’s last huge release was a 145-page Search Quality Evaluator Guide where it revealed that real humans review each website for several main factors (E-A-T, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trust; and Y-M-Y-L, Your Money or Your Life, denoting the standards needed for content that affects your life and finances). I explored that doc in a 3,000-word blog here.

This obvious preference for fresh, relevant content necessitates great, human writers. This is especially true given the recent rise of content marketing.

Currently, 78% of CMOs believe that custom content (which let’s face it, computers can’t humanly create) is the future of marketing as a whole.

Additionally, 61% of consumers are more likely to interact with and purchase from a company that offers custom content… than they are one that doesn’t.

Something else to throw in the stat bucket…

4.6 billion pieces of content are produced every day. 83,000 blog posts are posted live every single hour. Every minute, 200 million emails are sent. (ACI Information Group)

In light of these statistics, it’s clear that you’re going to have to create really, really good content to get noticed.

A few examples:

Poo~Pourri stands out and has sold over 4 million products because of their extremely creative, humorous voice and copy. Neil Patel publishes such a thorough guide every week on Quick Sprout that his Facebook followers say things like, man, you crushed it again, this is the ultimate life guide to my next business move.

No matter how many leaps and bounds marketing automation makes in the next several years, it’s going to be impossible to replace the human touch altogether needed to create online content that truly shines and stands out online.

The Downside of Automation: It’s An Age of Relationships

Automation is great for many things: it’s helped us become more efficient, productive, targeted marketers who pull out a whole lot less of our hair in the process.

It’s also helped us measure our results, stick to schedules, and become better business people.

The one thing automation can’t do, however, is actually build human relationship.

Not until we’re all a bunch of robots, at least…

humans becoming robot

Why Millennials are a Key Reason Not to Automate

I’d argue that, right now, we’re living in the age of relationships.

If you need an example, all you need to do is look at millennials. Millennials (generally defined as consumers between the ages of 18-34) currently make up a full ¼ of the U.S. population and, combined, they boast an annual purchasing power of more than $200 billion dollars.

This not only makes them one of the largest generations ever, but it also makes them the single most powerful marketing group in existence today.

In addition to the fact that they’re the largest marketing group, they’re also one of the most unique. As it turns out, millennials don’t share much of anything with other marketing groups.

The reason for this is that they’re highly connected, incredibly tech literate, and very focused on the development of relationships with brands they value.

AdAge reports that Millennials spend about 25 hours online each week and that most of that time is spent searching for custom content. When it comes to the content they choose to interact with, millennials consistently rank authenticity as being more important than the actual meat of the content they consume and they’re overwhelmingly more likely to trust personal recommendations or experts than they are random advertising and pushy sales tactics.

To put this another way: millennials value relationships – with one another and with the brands they choose to purchase from – and it’s clear that relationships are quickly becoming one of the most important factors in the purchasing decisions they make.

They value relationships so much, in fact, that 42% of millennial consumers state it’s very important to them to have a role in creating and developing the future services and products of the companies they purchase from.

Several companies have done this exceedingly well (Lays’ “Do us a Flavor” campaign is a great example) and, as a result, they’ve reaped the rewards of heightened customer loyalty and powerful advertising.

This is another example of something that’s very difficult for automated systems to do: while automated systems can schedule and scrape content, they can’t reach out and communicate directly with consumers in a meaningful and encouraging way.

Because of this, it’s clear that companies who want to build strong relationships with an increasingly millennial customer base need to do so by creating authentic, custom content using real writers.

Today is also the era of people wanting to do business with brands they LOVE.

This explains the exponential rise in the popularity of videos, images, and blog entries. In order for today’s customer to interact with a brand, that brand has to be created specifically for them.

The importance of this is evident in companies that have used storytelling to push their brand message.

Take Airbnb for example, which has used a series of beautiful, story-rich advertisements to gain favor with a millennial audience.

Another great example of the need for custom content is this: millennials are 247% more likely to be influenced by social media than previous generations, but you can bet that statistic would go out the window the moment social media started blasting millennials with stiff, unreadable, salesy content that wasn’t actually directed at them at all.

In order to succeed with today’s customers, you need to get personal, and this is something only actual people can do well.

This isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

Customers will always value personalized interactions.

While automation is important in many dozens of ways, it consistently misses the mark on providing high-quality, humanized, story-dense interaction for a brand’s customers.

5 Examples of Companies Investing Big-Time in Real Writers

1. Us – Express Writers

We publish over 40 pieces of long-form, 1000+ word content every single month across all our blog platforms, and we rely 100% on human writers to ghostwrite and deliver (I come up with all the topics, skeletons, and do the editing).

Our company has never hired an automation service to create the content, and will never do so. It just isn’t feasible. Our commitment is to provide high-quality, handwritten content services—and we believe only real writers can provide that.

We’ll never change this standard.

Yes, we will use tools like Buffer to schedule our social media posts, and we’re building a CMS system that makes all of our content assignments easier on our managers and our writers—but that’s about as far as “automation” will go over here at Express Writers!

2. Elite Daily

Elite Daily is the mammoth of millennial media in many ways. Pumping out everything from listicles to serious news-focused content, Elite Daily has risen to prominence in the world of media publications.

The company staffs a team of more than 5,000 contributing writers and a small team of in-house writers who are all – you guessed it- millennials.

The content you see on the site comes from the hands of real people and has managed to earn the platform some serious success in the form of more than 200,000 Twitter followers, over 2 million Facebook likes, and upwards of 70 million unique visitors each month. How’s that for knowing your audience and delivering exactly what they want?

3. Trello

Trello is an organizational and task management platform that’s pushing for world domination through its use of skilled, succinct copywriters. Their clear, distinct blurbs of copy are well-written:

trello copy

From clear product descriptions to highly relatable web copy, this platform wins points for being obviously written for the benefit of the customers. You won’t find crappy, scraped content here!

4. ModCloth

Looking for a frock for your sister’s wedding? Why not try the Ain’t Serene Nothing Yet! Dress or the Bold to Behold dress.

Maybe you need a bag to go with it? The Maestro of Ceremonies tote is right up your alley. ModCloth is a quirky clothing company that’s been killing it in terms of copywriting for years now. From their outstanding product descriptions to their unique blog content and colorful site, ModCloth is a clear leader in the copywriting industry.

5. Dollar Shave Club

Dollar Shave Club has been making headlines lately for its quirky launch video and hilarious commercials, but have you checked out their website?

dollar shave club copy

From their promise at the bottom of the home page (“No commitment. No fees. No BS.”) to their truly outstanding advertising, it’s clear to see why Dollar Shave Club has been taking the cake in copywriting for quite some time.

5 Killer Benefits of Real Writers

By now, you know that there are many things real writers can do that automated content systems can’t.

Here are a few of the main benefits of sticking with actual humans for your writing needs:

1. Real writers provide value

While it’s easy enough to schedule and curate posts using an automated content service, it’s much more difficult to provide genuine value for readers with an automated content system. Because real writers can anticipate and respond to the needs of readers, they’re always going to be better at providing valuable content than automated systems are.

2. Real writers can customize

We’ve outlined the importance of custom content in this article and while an automated system may be able to target actual dispersal of content to custom audiences, it certainly can’t create custom content. This is important because custom content is a bigger deal now than it’s ever been before.

Custom content has the potential to help increase customer engagement and help your brand stand out in its industry.

3. Real writers can respond

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that engaging with customers is one of the most important aspects of content marketing. Unfortunately, automated content systems don’t do this very well. Real writers, on the other hand, can monitor social media posts or blog interactions in order to read and respond to comments. This helps build a presence online and encourage high-quality customer engagement.

4. Real writers don’t suck

Let’s just face it –automated content sucks most of the time. (Re-read the article spinner results, circled in red.)

Because of this, real human writers have a definite upper hand when it comes to creating content people actually want to read.

5. Real writers go the distance

Real writers who are dedicated to their jobs will do almost anything to ensure their content is helpful and accurate for readers. This results in quality content, helpful information, and well-rounded sites that are valuable and exciting.

Human Writers: Here to Stay

While automated content may be the way of the future, it’s clear that human writers are here to stay.

From providing real value for readers to responding, engaging, and building relationships, real human writers can do things that automated content services never will.

Hire your expert {human} writer. Visit our Content Shop today!

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