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Daily Briefing: AI & Creativity
Good morning! And welcome to Business Side.
In today’s briefing we cover:
AI & creativity
The Texas Observer’s near-death experience
Plus other developments across the industry
Let’s get to it.
AI & creativity. AI-generated creations are resonating across mediums. An AI-generated song imitating the voices of Drake and The Weeknd is going viral, and an AI-generated image won top prize at a prestigious photography contest.
Casey Neistat, a well-known YouTuber, is not overly impressed: He published a video with a script written by ChatGPT, and according to Neistat, “That was the worst video I’ve ever made. That video sucked. It sucked because it had no humanity; it had no depth to it… no soul to it.” Neistat goes on to argue that art resonates because of the humanity of the artist.
So far, publishers are using AI primarily for formulaic content – such as real estate transactions, sports scores, weather, and other SEO content. It’s the type of work that doesn’t have much of a “soul,” to use Neistat’s framing. In a similar vein, Luke Winkie writes in Slate that journalists are often looking to avoid this sort of work: “Nobody who enters this field dreams of squeezing 500 bleary, spiral-eyed words out of a ‘What Time Is the Super Bowl’ headline.” If AI frees up more journalists to do original reporting and “soulful” work, that would be a happy outcome.
The Texas Observer’s near-death experience. After a dramatic couple weeks, editor-in-chief Gabriel Arana wrote a piece celebrating the survival of The Observer, a progressive investigative outlet that has been publishing for 68 years.
Here’s a recap of what happened: On March 22, the board voted to shut down the nonprofit publication. The site had only $170k in the bank (two months of payroll for the 17-person staff), and the funding outlook was grim. After hearing the news, staff rallied around a GoFundMe campaign to save the publication, and on March 29, the board voted to rescind the layoffs.
Staffers appealed to the publication’s progressive values in the fundraising campaign, which yielded nearly $350k from 4,800 donations on GoFundMe. Although this is a sizable amount, this funding will cover expenses for just a short period.
The challenge now becomes sustaining this donor energy, creating a sense of urgency even when the publication isn't facing imminent closure. One positive sign is that a number of large donors have reportedly taken notice and are exploring ways to support.
Auto-GPT. With ChatGPT, a human is involved in a back-and-forth conversation. But with Auto-GPT (a new open source project that uses OpenAI GPT-4), the AI agent continues taking actions in pursuit of a goal without additional human prompting. Along the way, Auto-GPT can interact with other services across the Internet.
For publishers, it points to a potential future where AI can accomplish complex content creation and distribution tasks. Auto-GPT has already become the fastest growing GitHub repository in history, and we'll learn more as developers release new applications.
The BBC is asking staff to take voluntary layoffs.
Vox Media is kicking off season two of “Into the Mix,” a podcast elevating social justice issues in partnership with Ben & Jerry’s.
Gannett’s news division president and USA Today’s EIC are both leaving the company.
On YouTube Shorts, longer videos (50-60 seconds) perform better than shorter ones.
AMC+ will launch a cheaper ad-supported tier.
Spotify will start publishing Gimlet podcasts on other platforms. And Nir Zicherman, who leads audiobooks at Spotify, is leaving the company; he was a founder of podcast startup Anchor, which Spotify acquired.
Adobe announced enhancements to its AI tools.
Twitter is adding “government-funded media” labels for more news organizations.
The New York Times has no plans to leave Twitter.
A survey of over 2,000 journalists found that 90% are on Twitter, and 78% said it is among the most valuable social platforms for them as journalists.
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