Chatbot Blot: Publishers Worry That AI Will Hurt Their Traffic And Revenue

The publishing business is warily watching the progress of AI and chatbots, fearing that they will cut into their search traffic. 

One reason is that AI tools from tech giants Google and Microsoft are providing answers to search queries instead of a list of links, writes Katie Robertson in The New York Times.  

With that search volume reduced, publishers will lose ad revenue, Roberston notes.   

Google and Microsoft are making reassuring comments about their intentions. But Yusuf Mehdi, head of Bing at Microsoft, told Robertson that his firm is talking with publishers about this new search, and added, “It is our intention that we would like to share incremental revenue that happens in that chat experience." 

Meanwhile, Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Kennedy (R-LA) are preparing to reintroduce the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, which would let publishers collectively negotiate for a share of search engine revenue, including that produced by generative AI, Robertson continues. 



That is one of the principles being put forward in guidelines by the News/Media Alliance.  

It remains to be seen if AI-generated content is accurate, fairly sourced or even grammatical. But publishers are creating task forces to cope with what one calls the potential “Wikipedia-ization of a lot of information." 

Journalists are especially interested in this part of the discussion.  

Earlier this year, Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Pereti said that some publishers might use the technology “for cost savings and spamming out a bunch of SEO articles that are lower quality than what a journalist could do.” 

But this month, Futurism writes, “BuzzFeed quietly started publishing fully AI-generated articles that are produced by non-editorial staff — and they sound a lot like the content mill model that Peretti had promised to avoid.”

Then there is the issue of job loss.  

Of course, it may be premature for anyone to panic. In an interview earlier this week, David Carey,  senior vice president of public affairs and communications at Hearst. commented, “Keep in mind this generative AI discussion is four months old.”  

True, and there will be a lot more to follow.




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