Nov 282010
Image representing StatSheet as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

ONLY human writers can distill a heap of sports statistics into a compelling story. Or so we human writers like to think.

StatSheet, a Durham, N.C., company that serves up sports statistics in monster-size portions, thinks otherwise. The company, with nine employees, is working to endow software with the ability to turn game statistics into articles about college basketball games.

Established in 2007, provides statistical analysis of college football and basketball,Nascar and other sports. It dices data in more ways than any fan could possibly absorb. But charts, graphs and rankings alone cannot replace words that tell a story. We humans love stories; a craving for narrative seems part of our nature.

This month, StatSheet unveiled StatSheet Network, made up of separate Web sites for each of the 345 N.C.A.A. Division I men’s basketball teams. Beyond statistics galore, each site has what the company calls “automated content,” stories written entirely by software, including write-ups of the team’s games, past and future. With a joking wink, StatSheet’s founder, Robbie Allen, refers to these sites as the “Robot Army.”

Each team’s StatSheet Web site is located at a freestanding Web address, conveying the sense that it is wholly invested in the interests of that school’s fans. (To find a domain name, a fan first visits

The software is imbued with the smarts to flatter each particular team. The same statistics, documenting the same game, produce an entirely different write-up and headline at the opposing team’s page.

A team like No. 1-ranked Duke — whose StatSheet Network Web site is — does not lack for attention from human sports writers. But StatSheet expects that the sports programs of smaller schools will appreciate the advent of robot journalism.

“There are at least 200 Division I schools that the large sports media companies give no attention to,” says Mr. Allen at StatSheet. “Once we have the algorithm in place, there’s no cost to adding the Lamars and Elons to the Dukes and U.N.C.’s.”

Small schools are less likely to have large alumni bases and to draw significant traffic, Mr. Allen said, so he is knocking on their doors to explore licensing partnerships.

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