ChatGPT has taken social media by storm by passing bar exams, writing songs, and producing written content in natural language that is remarkably human-sounding. Considering the content writing capabilities of the language learning model, media professionals are compelled to ask: what implications does ChatGPT have for news publishers?
At this early stage, it’s difficult to say with certainty whether AI technology is a friend or a foe of journalism. Moreover, fear and uncertainty threaten to cloud our judgement on the efficacy of AI tools. So, how do we develop a balanced view of a situation that is constantly evolving? Let’s start with a good old pessimist versus optimist stance.
Grow Your Publisher Readership & Revenue
Glass half empty? ChatGPT represents a threat to news publishers and journalism as we know it.
Glass half full? ChatGPT could automate simpler aspects of journalism, leaving news publishers free to pursue more sophisticated and engaging content.
Of course, the debate is a little more complicated than that.
ChatGPT does not currently pose a threat to premium content production because 1) it can only produce static content informed by limited time parameters, and 2) it is not as trustworthy as human writers. However, the adoption of AI chatbots could revolutionize the way that users interact with news content, necessitating a radical adaptation of ad revenue models that news publishers may not be prepared for.
As Urban List’s head of brand and culture Sophia Wilcox put it, “There will always be a need and a place for excellent and original content, great interviews, and editor-led, trusted recommendations.” Nevertheless, news publishers who have been watching AI chatbots churn out aggregated and mostly-accurate content fear that AI will cannibalize their content and, of course, their revenue.
This is a genuine concern for news publishers, especially as it’s clear that ChatGPT isn’t going anywhere. As of January this year, it amassed over 100 million users, making it the fastest-growing consumer application in history. Before we get into the details of how to remain at the cutting edge of news publication, let’s break down the fears surrounding ChatGPT in the news publishing industry in a little more detail.
Content creation has never been easier than it is with the aid of artificial intelligence. Since ChatGPT entered the scene, any English speaker with an internet connection can produce readable content. When anything from blog posts to news stories can be AI-generated with the click of a button, search engines will soon be saturated with pages that are all competing for the same keywords or topics.
This could mean that competition for the fraction of search traffic that is still using conventional search engines could get fierce, and fast. And with so many competitors using artificial intelligence to produce search-engine-optimized content at breakneck speed, it’s possible that search engine rankings and traffic could take a nosedive. It’s a no-win situation that spells out bad news for news publishers.
AI chatbots are really adept at quickly answering questions that readers search for online. Language models like ChatGPT are especially good at summarizing the key points of an input text, which makes it an attractive research and learning tool.
However, if users flock to AI tools like Perplexity AI or ChatGPT instead of conventional search engines for evergreen content, news publishers stand to lose a significant share of search traffic. If AI-driven search does not effectively redirect traffic to original content (spoiler alert: ChatGPT is famously ineffective at doing this), it could undermine the media industry altogether. The bottom line is not promising: if page views take a hit, then so do ad impressions and the associated revenue.
Fortunately, there are ways of boosting page visits and impressions without relying solely on search engines. We’ll get to that in a little bit. Before we do, let’s consider the opposite end of the AI equation: the limitations of ChatGPT and AI technology.
Because of the nature of its AI model, ChatGPT has two major limitations which give news publications the upper hand: access to source material, and trustworthiness. Currently, ChatGPT can only draw on limited sources to inform its content and, partially as a result of this, it cannot produce content that is as trustworthy as that which is written by human writers.
ChatGPT is an AI model trained on a large fraction of text from the internet. However, the training data currently cuts off at 2021, effectively giving human writers a two-year headstart on relevance and credibility. Furthermore, ChatGPT cannot freely access research material that predates the internet, meaning that any queries on matters of history may produce spotty results.
In summation, ChatGPT lacks real-time access to the internet, which imposes limitations on the relevancy and credibility of the news stories it might produce. Furthermore, it can only consult the internet – it cannot interview a source or take out a pre-internet library book to verify its facts.
And, finally, chatbots and large language models are great at identifying existing patterns – but they cannot anticipate upcoming culture shifts and emerging trends. That’s another point to human journalists.
ChatGPT could threaten the revenue models currently adopted by news publishers, but it won’t necessarily impact journalism negatively. ChatGPT might be a competent writer, but its limitations mean that journalists are better positioned to produce credible and up-to-date news stories. Moreover, journalists could even use ChatGPT to optimize their research methods, produce content more efficiently and, ultimately, pursue higher-converting (and diverting) assignments like investigative journalism.
ChatGTP’s limitations could have multiple implications. As any journalist knows, reputable source work and credibility are the cornerstones of good news stories. An undesirable outcome of the entry of AI tools like ChatGPT into news publication is the proliferation of poorly-informed or biased news stories. Admittedly, that would be disastrous for journalism.
On the other hand, it also gives human journalists a significant advantage. As long as they can establish and uphold a trusted editorial voice as experts in their field, journalists and news publishers will maintain the upper hand. An established history of expertise and credibility goes a long way in winning over discerning readers.
Whipping up a recipe for brownies is well within the capabilities of ChatGPT, but who are you going to trust more with a family favorite – a bot, or a recipe developer from the New York Times?
If we’re taking the glass-half-full approach, the emergence of ChatGPT represents an opportunity to capture a more lucrative audience share. A surge in AI-generated lookalike content might clog up the search engines, but changes in supply create changes in demand. The invention of the camera might have rendered portrait painting obsolete, but it freed artists up to pursue more abstract styles – and it’s not like the market stopped buying art.
Similarly, the rise of AI-generated news stories might see stronger demand for premium content from the likes of investigative journalists, trend forecasters, and on-the-ground reporters. That being said, it’s no good focusing your efforts on elevating your content if your target audience can’t find your grain of truth in the chaff of artificially intelligent content.
ChatGPT has already disrupted pretty much every conceivable industry in the world, and it’s only in its infancy. There’s no telling to what extent it could affect news publishers. Right now, it’s not likely to replace journalists. However, AI-driven search might just gobble up news publishers’ page views in a cannibalistic frenzy, and AI-produced content could seriously ramp up SEO competition.
It’s time to separate the chaff from the grain.
Invisibly represents a new way to maintain clicks, impressions, and page views without relying exclusively on search engines. By exchanging actively-consented data for a curated feed of premium news content, the Invisibly app connects aligned audiences with premium content – empowering discerning readers to freely access content that’s anything but artificial while expanding your reach. Invisibly is committed to building a better digital ecosystem for brands and people alike. If you’d like to learn more, let’s talk.
Use your data to access premium content you love.