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Google’s AI-generated search results
Let’s get all the caveats out of the way: 1) We already knew ($) this was coming, 2) For now, the experience is only available as part of Search Labs, a new space where a limited number of users can test early-stage experiments, 3) We don’t know exactly when and how a version of this feature will roll out more broadly.
All that said, it’s a big deal. Search is used by more than one billion people each day. Even small changes to the product ripple throughout the media ecosystem. And this would not be a small change.
Here’s what the new experience looks like:
After scanning the AI generated text itself, the next thing you’ll notice is those three rectangular cards in the top right. Those are the main sources the AI drew from when generating its response. It’s also possible to view more sources by clicking the small green button above the rightmost card. And if you scroll down below the green box, you can still access classic Search results.
It’s difficult to predict the impact on publishers, especially at this experimental stage. But it doesn’t seem good. With more information directly on the Search results page, fewer users will click on source cards or links, and publishers will get less referral traffic. As WSJ columnist Nic Nyugen tweeted: “is every media org's SEO team panicking rn?”
It’s poor timing too. As social traffic has declined, many publishers have increasingly relied on search. But as Google incorporates new AI features, the platform will likely become a less consistent, less generous referrer.
It’s a reminder that the most durable strategy is to build direct relationships with your readers. For many publishers, this requires a shift in emphasis toward more neutral channels like email, podcasts, and websites. These take longer to grow, but they allow outlets to serve their readers without algorithmic interference.
Here’s the latest news in digital media:
Forbes is being acquired. Austin Russell, the CEO of EV technology company Luminar Technologies, has entered into an agreement to buy an 82% stake in the publishing company. The deal values the company at $800 million, which is the target valuation sought by the current majority owner Integrated Whale Media.
News Corp reported a 2% Q1 revenue decline. Ad revenue was down ($) 6%, and net profit declined 39%. The company’s Dow Jones business unit, which publishes The WSJ, Barron’s, and Market Watch, posted a 9% YOY increase in Q1 revenue. The WSJ now counts just under 3.3 million digital subscriptions after adding 132,000 new subs from the previous quarter.
Twitter appointed a new CEO. Linda Yaccarino is joining from NBC Universal, where she ran their advertising business. As Twitter CEO, she will lead business operations, while Elon Musk will continue to oversee product design and engineering. The move suggests that Twitter intends to invest more heavily in its ad business going forward.
Skift launched an AI chatbot. The chatbot, which was trained on Skift’s content and built on GPT-3.5, is designed to answer questions about the travel industry. You can access the chatbot on all Skift webpages in the bottom right-hand corner.
More on publishers:
BuzzFeed readers spend ($) 40% more time with AI quizzes than traditional quizzes.
iHeartMedia launched a branded podcast studio.
Eight top editors and executives have left Gannett since December.
IAC Chairman Barry Diller warned ($) that AI has the potential to be “destructive” to journalism.
The New York Times launched a new weekly opinion podcast.
More on platforms:
Artifact now lets users follow individual writers in their app.
Netflix plans to reduce ($) spending by $300 million this year.
Meta announced new AI features to help advertisers create copy and edit creative.
Twitter rival Bluesky was downloaded 628,000 times in April, a 606% increase from March.
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