Google Search: Media threatened by generative artificial intelligence

By offering an AI-scripted response to Internet users' searches first, Google threatens to call into question part of the economic model of the Internet, especially for already fragile media outlets.

Traditional links to Internet pages have not disappeared, but with AI Overviews, introduced on Tuesday, they have been moved to text suggested by generative AI, the content of which is more likely to satisfy users' curiosity alone.

“This will have a negative impact on brands and sites that produce content and rely on traffic from search engines,” said Paul Reutzer, of the AI ​​Marketing Institute. “But we don't know to what extent or even what we can do about it.”

Gartner expects the volume generated by traditional search engines to shrink by 25% by 2026 with the emergence of generative AI applications.

Despite this revolution, Google cannot do without advertising, and will have to adapt its offer to advertisers. “Otherwise they will have gained too much experience with AI,” says David Clinch, of consultancy Media Growth Partners.

Hema Budaraju, from the Google search team, confirms that during tests on the overview, the sites and links shown in the answer “benefited from higher traffic” compared to the old search formula.

The question is who chooses these links? “Because there will only be a few” to expand the AI-generated text, the consultant asks.

He continues, “How can I make sure my links, my site, and my content are included in these results?” “I imagine you'll have to pay, which is really no different than what's been around up until now.”

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Google, which is already essential, is strengthening its position as an intermediary between Internet users and websites through “overviews”.

The importance of sources

“Google is facing tremendous pressure,” says David Clinch. Because “other players have already shown that generative AI, which responds to requests in everyday language, “can work without links or ads,” as is the case for ChatGPT.

“So, on Tuesday, they wanted to get the message across that they have about artificial intelligence, even if it means defining an economic model in a second step,” he added.

He sees the gap widening between the big web players and smaller companies, media outlets, companies and creatives, “who didn't really have the means to improve their references” on the search engine.

The tech giants' increasing control over advertising has starved many new-generation media outlets, from BuzzFeed to Vice, including The Daily Beast, Quartz, and Huffington Post, whose main source of income is selling space to advertisers.

But it has also stifled local or regional publications, which often fail to convert enough readers into subscribers to reduce their dependence and balance their accounts.

There are only a few titles of national or international importance, such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

For Paul Reutzer, content creators, media outlets or others should “seek to diversify” their distribution channels and means of generating traffic, particularly across social media, YouTube and TikTok, but also podcasts, “if they haven’t already done so.”

However, the emergence of generative AI as a research frontier has not yet been achieved. Since ChatGPT's launch in November 2022, “chatbots” have regularly been called out for bugs and “hallucinations”, i.e. strange responses.

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Public reviews, such as Microsoft's Bing (Powered by AI, or ChatGPT), should prove its reliability.

“Sources will become more important than ever,” warns Jeff Jarvis, a professor of journalism at New York State University (CUNY). “The question is whether the media can make their information available to these systems for exposure.”

“This will change the economic model, but I think it is an opportunity,” he added to the press.

So far, the media has, for the most part, taken legal action against large AI models, accused of stealing their content, or trying to push it one-on-one. “Everyone is working for themselves,” laments Jeff Jarvis, “when we could be coming together to think about how this new ecosystem works.”

Samantha Arnold

<p class="sign">"Web fanatic. Travel scholar. Certified music evangelist. Coffee expert. Unapologetic internet guru. Beer nerd."</p>

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