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The Publisher Lab: DuckDuckGo’s new AI, investing in newsletters, using AI for SEO, & ad spending sees an increase

The Publisher Lab: DuckDuckGo’s new AI, investing in newsletters, using AI for SEO, & ad spending sees an increase

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We have another episode of the Publisher Lab for you, and this week, we’re talking about Duck Duck Go’s new AI release, investing in newsletters, using AI for SEO, and the surprising trend of ad rates despite what the market looks like.

It’s an interesting time to be in digital publishing and tech right now with the rise of AI; we predict that the next three to four years will be a huge transition in the industry. The boom is certainly a surprise, as a year ago there was little talk about AI. Now, with Microsoft’s and OpenAI’s partnership and release of ChatGPT, AI has popped up everywhere—after OpenAI was released, Google quickly revealed their version, called Bard, and DuckDuckGo just announced how AI will be used to make their search better.

However, though AI is the most popular topic in the industry, there are still a few other news pieces that require some attention.

We would also like to say, Happy International Women’s Day, especially to those women in tech and digital publishing. You’re defying the statistics and changing the industry every day.

This podcast is available on YouTube and on any platform with podcasts.

DuckDuckGo & Slack introduce AI

DuckDuckGo recently announced its own response to the AI boom with DuckDuckAssist, a generative AI technology that will provide more direct answers than traditional search results.

It seems that almost everything will have AI in it soon, as everyone is trying to jump on the trend and stay relevant; it’s likely that we will see AI implemented in things that don’t need AI.

We’ve discussed before that search isn’t AI and AI isn’t search, and it also isn’t likely that AI will make search engines completely obsolete, at least any time soon. What will likely happen is the boom of AI will make us protective over search and we will work to preserve it; search serves a specific purpose that we don’t want to lose because there would be nowhere to share information without it. Also, AI doesn’t always provide exactly what you need, and we need some way to go out and look for it ourselves.

Another technology out there integrating AI is Slack. Using OpenAI, you will soon be able to use AI in Slack to go out and fetch information and implement add-ons and plugins. The new technology is called Einstein and should be available soon.

Majority of publishers see newsletters as area of opportunity in 2023

In an article from What’s New in Publishing, it was discovered that 70% of surveyed publishers see newsletters as an area of opportunity for growth in 2023. Currently, 50% of publishers already offer between one and five newsletters, and the other 50% offer even more.

There are roughly three types of newsletters:

  • briefing: daily; high-frequency; delivering regular updates to readers
  • deep dives: “letter from the editor”; long-read newsletters; focus on specific niche topics
  • summaries: similar to briefings, but are different because rather than trying to get traffic to an app or website, summaries deliver the need-to-know facts within the email

What we have found is that the popularity of newsletters is cyclical; they go “in and out of fashion.” For years, companies have been trying to find new ways to stay in touch with their customers, and many different forms of emailing have come out of it. People will try to say marketing automation software tools or newsletters are different, but they are centered around emailing customers still, and just do so in a more “disguised” fashion.

The reason newsletters have regained popularity time and time again is because they are one of the most tried and true methods of engaging an audience, and are one of the best ways a publisher can get traffic to their sites and build a relationship with their audience.

Even sending a summary newsletter, which isn’t about getting traffic to a website, is still helping a publisher’s website because it builds rapport and trust in the publisher, so a newsletter receiver is more likely to use the publisher’s website as a source for information later.

If you don’t have a newsletter now, you’re missing out on opportunities to link back to your site and gain authority and trust.

AI for SEO and content expected to grow 5x this year

Search Engine Land reported that 90% of organizations are planning on prioritizing SEO in 2023 due to compounding benefits. Currently, 10% of marketers use AI for SEO content generation, but 58% aim to in 2023.

It is likely that only 10% use AI for SEO content generation right now because they are practicing caution in regards to AI; it’s still so new, and “hallucinations” are of concern, as well as being found out by Google and penalized (nevermind that Google recently softened their outlook on AI-generated content when they released Bard).

Of the SEOs surveyed, four main concerns became prevalent for 2023: search engine updates, changing consumer behavior, technology advancements, and competitors.

Though organizations plan to focus more on SEO, especially with AI, it can be said that many SEOs do not understand the two parts of what a search engine can do very well: crawling and indexing, the latter of which serves the search results. Those concerned with Google finding out that content was AI-generated need to understand that there is nothing within the actual content that points to it not being human-generated content, so there is no way that Google could ever know.

Additionally, preventing hallucinations is also possible; when asking generative AI a question, you can ask it to not give a false answer if it doesn’t know what the answer is. To add in those filters on a grand scale would make it a worse chatbot, but you can request it only to give you facts.

AI can be helpful to SEOs because it can provide more data and be more helpful than just using Google Analytics, which people rarely use correctly. AI can help people make decisions about how to use their data without ever having to look at it.

Positive Q1 ad spend will take time to provide true benefits

In previous years, companies have tended to cut advertising spending during economic downturns since they typically have a flexible budget and it’s easy to cut spending immediately. This economic downturn seems to be different, however; major brands like Kraft-Heinz and Unilever have reported they are increasing ad spend in 2023.

Instead of cutting advertising, many companies are passing on the increase to shoppers, with the belief that they will pay higher retail prices.

Digital ad spending has increasingly become a larger portion of overall global ad spend and it’s not looking like it’s stopping anytime soon, even with the economic downturn; the same can be said for mobile traffic.

However, despite both mobile traffic and digital ad spending increasing, mobile ad rates are going down. Why is this?

Basically, it’s because humans are really bad at optimizing and seeing the long game that must be played. It’s easy for mobile ad rates to become inflated because for a while, it seemed like putting more ads on a mobile screen when an ad was doing well would make more money, but this actually the opposite is true; the more ads that show on a screen at the same time, the less value they carry, because they’re all competing for the visitor’s attention. As Google’s algorithm notices that the visitor is clicking less on one, or all, of the ads because of this competition, it will decrease the value of the ad and automate those campaigns over time.

Additionally, while inflation is certainly happening, it’s segmented; the price of technology continues to go down while something like healthcare is two to three times more expensive than it used to be. That’s why prices on commodities like items from Kraft-Heinz will be more expensive and the company has more to spend on advertising.

Stay tuned

We recommend keeping an eye on AI and technologies, like Slack, that is finding ways to use it in a new capacity.

Keep listening to the Publisher Lab each week, out on Fridays. If you have suggestions, head to PublisherLab.org and let us know!

Whitney is a former journalist for numerous city-wide newspapers and online media sources and an accomplished digital and creative marketer. She has multiple years of digital publishing expertise and contributes regularly to all of Ezoic's content sources.

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