ChatGPT Could Serve Another Blow To Publishers

By Debra Fleenor Debra Fleenor has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on May 18, 2023

I’ve written before about the state of our media ecosystem, and particularly the precarious position of our independent publishers. Moreover, I’ve laid out their timely opportunity to reclaim the power of their data in order to evolve the power-dynamic in media with incentives that benefit the creators of essential information, like fact-based journalism.

Today’s moment, on the precipice of the deprecation of the third party cookie, is just one more inflection point in ongoing tumult surrounding ad-supported content.

The publishing industry is beholden to overnight changes in algorithms, and ever-increasing chokeholds created by social media and search providers.

And it’s not immune to the effects of ChatGPT.

Generative AI like ChatGPT, which is making headlines across industries, has been both lauded and criticized by publishers and content creators, and for good reason. The emerging technology will have positive and negative consequences on our publishing ecosystem.

Here’s what publishers should be thinking about as they navigate this new world.

Impacting Traffic From Search

Since generative AI is going to be deployed in search – ChatGPT in Bing and Google’s competitor, Bard – publisher content will be part of a dataset digested and regurgitated in query results.

While Bing’s AI-generated search results source content in the form of linkable subscript, publishers are concerned that search users will be less likely to click on these minimized links.

Meanwhile, the current version of ChatGPT doesn’t source content in its data set, at all. This means that content that’s used in the dataset to inform the query result no longer captures the value they create in the transaction.

If generative AI replaces search, which many tech pundits forecast, this has the potential to significantly decrease traffic to the content of independent publishers.

Potential for Impacting Revenue

Of course, a decline in search traffic will almost certainly result in a decline in potential ad revenue for publishers, since ads are sold based on impressions and competition.

As ad revenue is the primary source of income for most publishers, this can have significant ramifications on independent publishers and on our media ecosystem.

How Publishers Are Using ChatGPT

The implications aren’t all negative.

Many publishers are using ChatGPT to draft articles about trending topics, which may eliminate the time it takes to produce meaningful content. A 700-word article in the voice of a mock-human expert can be generated in seconds, saving publishers on one of their most significant costs: labor.

However, publishers should use caution when using AI for content generation, since Google is likely to penalize this type of content in search engines against its Spam Policy. This is particularly likely to happen with ChatGPT, since the OpenAI chatbot competes with Google. It’s unknown how Google will treat content generated by its ChatGPT competitor, Bard.

If publishers do use ChatGPT or other generative AI for content ideation, they should make sure it’s fact-checked and edit the query result prior to posting to avoid negative consequences in search, which could be substantial.

How Publishers Can Fortify Their Position in the New Internet

Focus on what you can control.

Now is the time to optimize your programmatic advertising so that you’re extracting maximum value from users, and expanding your net to capture first party data so that you’re not beholden to the walled gardens of Big Tech companies like Google and Meta.

The more publishers can own their audience data, the less impacted they’ll be by changes to search. When content creators know their audience, they can stay relevant outside of search engines through email marketing and owned ecosystems.

Moreover, they can ensure that relationships with consumers are personalized and value-driven to fortify their position ahead of the next innovation.

By Debra Fleenor Debra Fleenor has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Debra Fleenor is the founder and president of Adapex Inc., an adtech leader recognized by Deloitte as one of the fastest growing companies in North America and listed to the Inc 5000 in 2021. A serial entrepreneur and sought-after consultant, Fleenor is credited with two successful exits of 8-figure companies and more than 20 years driving disruptive innovation for tech startups. She’s an Admonsters and Folio: Top Women in Media honoree, and sought after thought leader on tech topics - from web 3.0 and the metaverse to artificial intelligence and the evolution of data privacy.

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