Discover more from Business Side
What types of publishers are vulnerable to conversational AI?
Plus, how South Carolina publishers are funding investigations
Conversational AI is so new & different that it’s easy to talk about it with sweeping language.
But ultimately it’ll come down to specific use cases. In what cases is conversational AI better than the status quo? If conversational AI is indeed a paradigm shift, it seems likely that different categories of publishers will be affected quite differently.
A useful anchor is survey data about how people are already using conversational AI. We can look at each use case and ask 1) whether it’s a use case currently served by publishers, and 2) whether conversational AI is positioned to do it better.
The Verge ran a survey of 2,000 U.S. adults and found that the top use case was answering a question. That’s quite broad, but it reinforces how conversational AI is a threat to search – and therefore to publishers who rely heavily on search.
Surveys have found brainstorming to be another top use case, particularly at work. This strikes me as a use case that the Internet has never served well, so this likely represents a lot of net new activity.
Another set of common use cases, as found in a survey by Wordfinder, falls into a category you might call “making a plan”:
Creating a workout plan
Finding a recipe
Planning a trip
Getting makeup tips
Many publishers play in these spaces, and conversational AI is well positioned to compete. I happen to be planning a trip right now, and I’m also attempting to advance my cooking skills beyond the beginner level. For both, Google search is a frustrating maze, and websites are often poorly designed and full of intrusive ads. Also, conversational AI enables a level of personalization and creativity that static sites don’t offer.
In surveys about AI, I’m not coming across “finding news” as a common use case. Perhaps that’s because if we imagine news as a conversation, it’s often initiated by the publisher telling the reader what’s new. That’s also where the conversation typically ends.
AI could present an additional way for publishers to keep readers engaged in the conversation. Right now this job is done by recommended articles or a comments section – or oftentimes, the user returns to Google or social media to keep exploring. Conversational AI, paired with editorial oversight and transparency, might provide a way for publishers to create a more useful two-way conversation and, hopefully, claw back some consumer attention.
Here’s today’s case study:
Charleston’s Post and Courier collaborated on investigative work with small community papers. Some highlights:
A donation campaign to cover investigative expenses raised around $500,000.
The paper and 19 community papers shared their reporting with each other.
Stories ran in the Post and Courier and were available to all of the local partners.
And here’s the latest news in digital media:
CJR profiled Graydon Carter’s Air Mail. At the magazine-ish digital publication, subscriptions are up 40% YoY, and eCommerce now accounts for 15-20% of revenue. The company, which has raised $32 million, hopes to reach profitability within three years.
More on publishers:
Yahoo is “very profitable” and plans to become a public company again.
The NYT added pre-roll ads to Wordle.
More on platforms:
Meta’s Twitter competitor, Threads, officially launched.
The Canadian government is suspending advertising on Meta platforms after Meta’s decision to stop surfacing news in Canada.
Monthly traffic to ChatGPT dropped for the first time, down 10% from May to June.
Thanks for being a part of Business Side’s public beta. Have a great day!