Content Aware media news: January 25, 2024

Published: 26 January 2024

Googlers are unhappy, users are too

When insight and upset become one and the same, the Google Edition.

As scathing commentaries go, it's up there with Pitchfork's legendary 0.2/10 album review, of which many were reminded this week with news of the music site's merger with GQ.

Withering morsels including "profoundly boring and glassy-eyed", "killing their golden goose", "not one single visionary leader", "not launched one single successful executive-driven thing in years", and "a pervasive sense of nihilism" were a barbed handful from a 529-word LinkedIn post by Google engineer Diane Hirsh Theriault, talking about the firm.

Accurate or not, we can't say, but the comment chain stretching yards off-screen showed plenty of appetite for a moment of low-hanging catharsis to anyone aggrieved at how Google works (or doesn't) these days. 

If someone talks smack about the school bully, those whose pockets have been rifled are likely to take note.

Does that include you? In publishing, the answer these days seems to always be yes. Be it dismal search results, diving traffic, falling referrals and a dramatic drop in quality in those who do arrive, or promotion of rivals that have stolen your content, there's plenty for publishers to feel aggrieved about. 

And more than ever before, people are starting to compare notes and talk about it. The recent media leaders event we at Glide partnered in New York rapidly turned into a note-comparing session for CEOs on the wrong side of Google's veering course.

While Google has without doubt done amazing things for the world and the progression of the internet, it's all the more reason for their activities to be scrutinised. Their dominance in search is still such that rival Bing does not even need to submit to new regulations in the forthcoming EU Digital Markets Act.

And with near-perfect timing, it looks (to those who spend their time looking) that there is another round of traffic turbulence upon us heaving its way towards your KPIs. 

As always, keep your eyes on the graphs. Google is under pressure, and is squeezing everyone as a result.

On with the round-up.

Corbidge comments on... the sting of internal criticism
The LinkedIn post which invited a torrent of contributions and response peels back a layer on a company that more than most has relied on employee belief and goodwill to drive it forward. Forget about fumbling the AI ball, could employee dissatisfaction be the most damaging thing to Google long-term?
https://www.gpp.io/comment/google-searches-for-the-meaning-of-things-within-apobn6n3khIP  

Derating the humans
Google cuts their largest provider of search rating personnel, the people who assess search result quality. (You thought that was your job didn't you!) Contracts come and go and only Google knows if this indicates a shift of emphasis from people to bots, but here's some added flavour: the news came almost a year to the day after Google was forced to increase rater pay above "poverty wage" levels. Also, some fear AI-driven assessments could allow a hyperfluid algorithm update policy whenever AI detects a better way to twiddle the dials. Well, better for who? And how do site owners align to any sort of strategy if there is no formal guidance on what algorithm updates are addressing, a key outcome of the human-derived algorithm changes?
https://www.seroundtable.com/google-search-quality-raters-cut-36767.html

An AI which roughs up other AIs
One solution pushed towards artists to prevent their work being used to train AIs is a sort of digital poison pill to bamboozle learning algorithms and make it more expensive to process image works. It hopes to promote licensing being cheaper than runaway processing costs. Expect more of these poacher-turned-gamekeeper tools to protect your work, and court cases springing from AI-vs-AI conflicts.
https://venturebeat.com/ai/nightshade-the-free-tool-that-poisons-ai-models-is-now-available-for-artists-to-use/

After the fire
A cracker this week from Brian Morrissey's Rebooting, overviewing the wretched start to the year in a way which starkly illustrates why the major questions to Google are being posed. If they are the cause, this is the effect.
https://www.therebooting.com/after-the-fire/

Your content, your money, their pocket
More on the AI clones and dross stealing your content and traffic. Do human raters help or hinder here? News comes so fast that it's unreasonable for a human to assess individual stories (and there'd be uproar if that was seen to be a requirement), however when automation allows publishers to be so brazenly robbed, the current scenario seems tilted to reward chicanery.
https://www.404media.co/google-news-is-boosting-garbage-ai-generated-articles/

Hack attack back
A scary new WordPress vulnerability to check for, linked to a tool often used in migrations. Get your updates hat on.
https://www.bleepingcomputer.com/news/security/hackers-target-wordpress-database-plugin-active-on-1-million-sites/

Three letters, one giant question
A worthwhile long read into the whole concept of IP in a world of AI-produced content. This isn't the I,P, and A we like most but the relevance of the relationship grows by the day.
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2024/01/22/who-owns-this-sentence-a-history-of-copyrights-and-wrongs-david-bellos-alexandre-montagu-book-review

Lording it over news
Have a horse in the news race? The UK House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee is actively calling for evidence to help assess the place of news and news organisations amid the rise of AI and social platforms - you have a little over two weeks (Feb 12th) to get your insight added to their enquiry materials. Every little helps. From such committees, policy can spring.
https://committees.parliament.uk/call-for-evidence/3332

GA4 unpicked and demystified
Pulling your hair out getting up to speed on GA4? Here's a good primer and guide to the most widely-used analytics tools, with a reminder that others are available.
https://www.7dots.com/our-insights/a-comprehensive-guide-to-google-analytics-4/

We recommend...
How to communicate and engage with news avoiders who seem determined to avert their gaze from the events of the day forms the core of this new book from a trio of authors who pore over the habits of readers worldwide. Excerpt here.
https://cup.columbia.edu/book/avoiding-the-news/9780231205191