AI and the Media & Publishing Industry Q&A - Pt2

By: Rich Fairbairn, 21 February 2023

A futuristic 3d scene of walls of futuristic monitors running text

Di5rupt's Mx3 Leadership team recently interviewed industry leaders about the effect and outlook of the rising use of AI tools in the publishing sector. Glide's Richard Fairbairn sat down to discuss how the new phenomenon could change the landscape for publishers and journalists.

How do you see it develop in the shorter to longer term? What does that mean for newsrooms?

At a high level we see two strands developing in the near term:

New publishing start-ups, with non-industry funding, going all-in on AI to do things current publishers can’t do quickly or won’t risk doing. Think fully automated sites and services, new brands, with barely any human intervention.

The existing industry players adopting AI tools in their current business models and brands, in bite-size chunks to do specific things like those mentioned earlier: efficiency not earthquake.

The first strand could most visibly be of entire new sites or services that put AI content generation at their core, with people pulling the AI levers rather than intervening much on individual pieces of content: point your news bots at topics, have them prompt a ChatGPT-like service with a request, and out pops an article.

Then what? Model around advertising and affiliate revenue and gobble up traffic by being quick and comprehensive, or find highly-targeted subscription and B2B channels where speed of information matters much more than grammatical flair or particularly special insight – results, events, and data-driven types of products.

These disruptive entrants could be similar to what Axios or The Athletic were, coming from fresh waters and growing very rapidly, but it could just as likely be Facebook, or Google, or Twitter. Who knows, if they feel the cash-for-content deals being forced by legislators are too punitive, I’d be surprised if they do not look to their own versions of ChatGPT to procedurally generate news and answers and cut out publishers.

Their battle – and in fact probably the AI battle in this space – will be for those providers to convince people their AI content is more trustworthy and accurate than other AIs, or has sufficient human oversight to be above criticism. In fact, ironically given how the question of trusting AI is a legitimate question, look for a drive by some to eventually claim their AI news is more trustworthy than that created by humans.

What are some of the pitfalls you’ll warn publishers about? Why?

Vendor overload, and a blizzard of “AI for everything” on offer from firms with no previous experience in the publishing space treating you just like any random business. Also, watch for an overreach of ambition or achievability from within your own organisations.

In the same way we tell publishers they should not be CMS companies, you should remind yourself you are not an AI company. You are just looking for a tool that does a specific thing: the AI label is almost irrelevant.

Importantly, it should be a way of improving something that you already understand well, can measure, and know how to improve. If you do not know what AI is going to solve for you, then you probably don’t need what you’re being offered.

Elsewhere, expect this space to be extremely fast moving with lots of new entrants. That being the case, prioritise being able to pick up or put down these new tools quickly. If they are huge undertakings to integrate with your business or negatively impact your day to day operations, then they become significantly bigger risks. Like any new sector, there will be first-to-markets, and best-to-markets – there will be fierce competition from providers and vendors in price, performance, and easier adoption.

Moreover, beware of extreme difficulty recruiting in the space if you choose to do so. All the more reason to search for easy to use tools that use AI, rather than being tricked into thinking you are an AI company.

Previous parts of this series

Part One

To see the full interview, visit the Di5rupt MxLeadership site here.

The full report can be downloaded here.