We hear about outsourcing constantly, with the majority of the buzz attributed to off-shoring. However, in the journalism world, different forms of outsourcing are taking shape. A recent blog post in GigaOm discussed two of the newer practices, the creation of content farms and robo-journalism.

We have discussed the progress of using algorithms and software to take data and create news stories in previous newsletters. It appears that this process has evolved from sports writing to business reporting. As the technology is developed, we can expect this type of data transformation to replace more human-generated stories.

Content farms are a new phenomenon, a type of aggregator of news stories currently being used to exploit hyper-local markets. Why pay journalists big bucks when you can pay an independent contractor between $2 and $4 per story? When it comes to hyper-local news stories that will last an hour or two on a Web page that may make sense, but in the general scheme of things we don't see this replacing good reporters.

Granted, there are some tasks like compiling statistics, rooting out earnings numbers, and researching topics that can be done by machines. And for some low-grade mundane local news stories, maybe outsourcing to a stringer is appropriate.

The bigger question becomes, can (or should) we replace journalists - who have been trained to ask that extra question, to put the story in perspective, and to get down to the truth of a news story - with robots and outsiders? Or should we instead relegate the "drudge" work to these resources, freeing our journalists to focus on stories of merit? Where is the dividing line?