Lost In AI: Small Publishers Fear Impact Of Google's Search Generative Experience

Google, which was already facing criticism from publishers on a number of fronts, including its blocking of news articles in response to the California Journalism Protection Act, may be open to even more. 

Small publishers are worried about Google’s experimental search tool, Search Generative Experience (SGE), which utilizes AI to answer queries in a fairly complex form. 

Critics fear SGE will threaten small publishers who rely on Google for traffic, while driving it to larger media firms, the Washington Post writes in a Monday report.  

Case in point: Jake Boly, a strength coach who writes shoe reviews, saw his Google traffic plummet by 96% last year, although it still cites his page on AI-driven answers about shoes. 

It is not clear if Search Generative AI contributed to Boly’s experience. But Boly is still disillusioned with Google.  



“My content is good enough to scrape and summarize,” Boly told the Post. “But it’s not good enough to show in your normal search results, which is how I make money and stay afloat." 

In January, Google wrote, “We’re experimenting with what’s possible through our program Search Labs, which features the new Search Generative Experience (SGE).” 

Among other things, SGE will help users ask "new kinds of questions that are more complex and more descriptive," and get "the gist of a topic faster, with links to relevant results to explore further," Google said. 

Google also stated in this document that it is “rolling out SGE thoughtfully as an experiment, and in accordance with our AI Principles. We took extensive steps and a careful, considered approach to develop this experience responsibly, leaning on protections and approaches that we’ve honed for years in Search.“

However, the Washington Post contends that these “overviews,” as Google calls its AI answers, uh, paraphrase directly from web sites.  

For instance, a search for how to fix a leaky drain drew an answer that lifted a phrase from The Spruce, a home improvement and gardening website owned by Dotdash Meredith, “word-for-word.” 

Of course, the lifting of one phrase does not spell mass plagiarism, but there may be many more examples if one chooses to look for them. And one is bad enough when it is done by journalists or historians. 

We'll let the Post headline writers have the last word – for now. The deck says, "Web publishers brace for carnage as Google adds AI answers."

We hope that's exaggerated.

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