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Plus, Jeff Bezos is leaning in at The Washington Post
After months of speculation, we now have a few early signs of how AI companies will participate in the news space.
In recent weeks, OpenAI struck partnerships with The AP and The American Journalism Project. In both cases, OpenAI will lend its expertise to help the organizations innovate with AI. As part of the AP deal, OpenAI will license the publisher’s content to help train its algorithms.
Then last Wednesday, we learned that Google is testing a new tool (working title: “Genesis”) that uses AI to generate news articles. The company has apparently pitched the software to several publishers – including NYT, WaPo, and News Corp – as a personal assistant for journalists.
After the Google news broke, anxiety in the news industry spiked – at least judging by reactions on Twitter. Some struck a defensive pose, arguing that Google’s new tool wouldn’t be useful in creating accurate, original reporting. Others feared that media executives would repeat past mistakes by embracing new tech without considering the consequences.
In parsing the implications for publishers, it’s helpful to view these developments through the lens of distribution. While it’s tempting to imagine generative AI writing journalists out of jobs, history would suggest that, as The Rebooting’s Brian Morrissey wrote last week, “the biggest immediate impact of AI on the publishing business will be how it changes distribution, not creation.”
Through this lens, Google’s journalist assistant, on its face, is a distraction relative to the impact generative AI will likely have on the large search and social platforms. Of course, the two concerns may intersect if, for example, Google’s new tool is used as a carrot to broker licensing deals. Here, publishers will want to tread carefully. These deals would offer short-term compensation, but they might also provide legal cover for platforms to use publisher content to improve their native AI content experiences — and further usurp distribution.
As experiments proliferate, anxiety will inevitably continue to creep in. But publishers should stay focused on what, for many, is the most sustainable path: Leveraging differentiated content as a means to build direct connections with loyal audiences. While digital media’s next ten years will look different from the last, this approach will endure.
And here’s the latest in digital media:
Jeff Bezos & WaPo
Jeff Bezos is playing a more active role at The Washington Post, according to a story from The New York Times.
He stepped in earlier this year after reports from top editor Sally Buzbee that morale was low, in part because of missteps from the paper’s publisher, Fred Ryan.
Bezos has taken an interest in one nascent project, a forum featuring user-submitted content that’s aimed at reaching news-avoidant readers.
The paper faces an uphill financial climb: The company is on track to lose $100 million this year and has 2.5 million digital subscribers, down from 3 million at its peak.
NYT’s union filed a grievance over the paper’s decision to close its standalone sports desk and rely more on coverage from The Athletic.
Hearst Magazines laid off 41 staffers due to “company restructuring.”
Insider sent a staff memo detailing how its newsroom pilot group is testing AI, including generating bullet-point summaries and translating captions & interviews.
WaPo shared SEO and web performance best practices & guidelines.
Journalist Walter Kirn launched the pointedly retro County Highway, a bimonthly print magazine born out of disillusionment with America’s large cities.
A group of investors is in the final stages of a deal to buy CoinDesk for $125 million.
Twitter is rebranding to “X,” and X.com now redirects to Twitter.com. Separately, the platform plans to allow verified organizations to post job listings, but it’s begun restricting the number of DMs unverified users can send.
TikTok is the UK’s most popular news source for 12 to 15-year-olds, according to a new Ofcom report.
Threads’ daily active users have fallen about 70% to 13 million, according to Sensor Tower estimates.
ESPN held talks with several pro sports leagues about the possibility of taking a minority stake in ESPN’s business.
Spotify is planning to increase the price of its monthly subscription by $1 in the US.
According to a new Pew survey, an increasing majority of Americans think tech companies and the US government should “take steps to restrict false information online, even if it limits freedom of information.”
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