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The Publisher Lab: Meta’s Twitter replacement, GPT-4, & TikTok enters search ad market

The Publisher Lab: Meta’s Twitter replacement, GPT-4, & TikTok enters search ad market

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Welcome back to another week of the Publisher Lab podcast with Tyler Bishop and Whitney Wright.

The rainy weather in California is certainly causing some infrastructure issues but we were finally able to make it to the office to record the podcast. Bunkering down inside from the rain does mean more people were probably on their computers and mobile devices, however!

This week, we have major movements by Big Tech and popular social media platforms. Will Meta build a Twitter replacement? Should publishers start optimizing for Bing? Is a TikTok search ad market a worthy competitor against Google?

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Meta creating a product they hope can replace Twitter

Though Twitter may have more active users than ever, their revenue has certainly taken a hit in recent history, and other platforms are looking to create the next, big, text-based social media platform.

Meta is currently working on what they have code-named P92, which they hope could be an answer to Twitter’s decline. The product would allow users to log in using their Instagram credentials.

P92 wouldn’t exactly be like Twitter, however; the product is geared to be decentralized. Users will be able to set up their own servers, dictating server-specific rules for how content is moderated. What it seems, however, is that this new product is going to be more like Discord and less like Twitter; it seems, from descriptions, that it is going to be more like a protocol, meaning that it will likely be open-sourced.

Twitter is unique in its simplicity and people have a history with it. If Meta’s product is more like a Discord, and since it is associated with Meta/Instagram, the adoption isn’t likely to be high.

We’ve watched social media change over the last decade and it is something that, compared to something like a search engine, has a high turnover rate. Also, social media has become more regionalized. For instance, Telegram is used in some places as more of a social media app than simply just messaging, and WhatsApp is popular in other regions for almost all forms of communication.

It could be, in the (semi) near future, social media as we know it will be obsolete and seen as “old technology,” and social media surrounding particular ideas, regions, niches would be more prevalent.

As for Twitter, it likely isn’t going anywhere any time soon. They’re a private company now, so it is difficult to know how they are financially faring, despite what the rumors say. Additionally, Twitter has had a history unlike any of the other social media platforms; while others have peaked, seen a major drop-off, and then died, Twitter experienced a drop-off but then started growing once more.

GPT-4 is now available in ChatGPT and Bing

OpenAI recently released its newest iteration of GPT, which is an improvement in reliability, creativity, and nuanced instructions. It is also safer, though it still doesn’t know about events post-September 2021.

GPT-4 is able to accept image and text inputs and performs well in languages other than English, even languages like Welsh that have limited resources to pull from. The technology was tested on simulated exams designed for humans and was reported to outperform current large language models.

While it can certainly still give hallucinations, or inaccurate results, and reasoning errors, it is 82% less likely to give inappropriate content than the previous version and better follows policies surrounding sensitive material, like medical advice.

Microsoft recently laid off its entire AI ethics and society team; however, the team was assembled before the partnership with OpenAI and so at least began with a slightly different focus. Laying off this team doesn’t mean Microsoft doesn’t care about AI ethics but it does pose an interesting question—though a machine could possibly do a task better than a human, is there an ethical issue with the task not being performed by a human? These types of questions are going to become increasingly more prevalent as AI and technology advance.

To access GPT-4, you have to join a waitlist.

As for a worthy opponent to Google…is it time to optimize for Bing or Edge browser?

Google has been ahead of the AI game for a long time now, especially when you consider how long ago they began developing LaMDA. It seems that Google is fumbling the ball with the way it communicates and releases its products, while Microsoft and OpenAI’s partnership and release of ChatGPT and other AI products have gone very smoothly.

GPT-3 certainly was useful before but since the release of ChatGPT, it’s become apparent what is possible when you begin bringing all of GPT-3’s capabilities together. This is going to become increasingly more evident as development continues. It’s likely that we’ll start seeing ways to add other training data (maybe ones that have information past September 2021) and plugins, and see APIs being sold that can all integrate with this technology.

Does anyone remember AOL’s SmarterChild? ChatGPT is giving me flashbacks.

TikTok developing a search ad market; can it compete with Google and Microsoft?

TikTok has a search ad market in the works, which would allow advertisers to bid on specific keywords and phrases. During its beta test last year, advertisers had the ability to see what search terms were responsible for conversions and use those high-engagement search terms for headlines of their best-performing TikToks.

TikTok seems to be ahead of the game when it comes to reaching the younger generations; 40% of young people—Millennials and Gen Z—are more likely to search “lunch spot” on TikTok or Instagram over traditional methods, like Google Maps or search. TikTok has the ability to tap into this younger demographic, capitalize on growth, and provide a new advertising platform for businesses to reach Millennials and Gen Z more efficiently and effectively.

It’s likely the new search ad market would work like google, allowing businesses to bid on specific keywords and phrases related to whatever their product or service is, but then offer unique capabilities with audience targeting. Additionally, TikTok may offer more competitive pricing and ROI than Google.

Some advertisers, however, are weary of TikTok and preserving their own brand safety, though it’s likely just the top 10% of advertisers who would be concerned with something like that.

If publishers are concerned about ad spend leaving search and heading to TikTok, it’s more likely that ad spend will move from Facebook over to TikTok.

Publishers should be paying attention to how others are beginning to use these platforms, however; Facebook was originally just a simple social platform but then became very lucrative when it introduced games. Now, TikTok is being used by younger generations like search engines are used, and understanding how it could affect—for better or worse—your niche could be really important to your website’s health and growth.

For publishers who dabble in video—and maybe even for those who don’t—getting involved in vertical video in the near future will be important. With popular apps like TikTok and platforms that try to have similar functions (YouTube Shorts, Instagram Reels, SnapChat) growing in popularity, vertical videos may take hold a little bit more. Even if TikTok were to get banned in another country, there would be something that fills that void, and it’s going to be vertical video.

When we consider social media as a whole, like the aforementioned, it will not stand the test of time in the format we know today. And, as we’ve said time and time again, you can’t rely on social media to be a crutch for your website—it can be a nice asset and addition, but as soon as you start relying on something that is so cyclical like social media, you risk losing it all.

Search, on the other hand, has not proven to be near as changing as social media—we had Yahoo! as dominant for search back when the internet first started, but Google has been the behemoth since then. It does seem, however, that we are going to be seeing some big changes in search in the near future.

Question & comments from the audience

In reference to ChatGPT/Bard and Search results:

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but Google and Bing make their money off of ads. So, they can develop the best [generative] AI they can, but if they decide to only show AI content without leading you to a website to view ads, they are not going to make money—period. So, I think they will have great AI on their search engine, but they will also get you to click on the links on the [search results] page to get those ads making money.”

What’s important to understand is that yes, Google does make money off of display ads. However, it makes roughly 80-85% of its revenue off search ads. When Google was sued by the DOJ for antitrust, some experts said that Google should just sell its display ad business since it doesn’t really need it.

This is why its important for publishers to understand how they go out and get their audience, not how their audience passively comes to find them. All of this—the way we understand, use, and make money off of search—could go away at some point, and if you’re not aware of how to keep your audience engaged, then you risk having an audience at all.

Also, knowing the purpose behind your content is important. Is your content specific pieces of information that could be answered by generative AI or is it more general information that someone would want if they want to deep-dive on a topic?

Do you have a question you’d like answered? Head over to PublisherLab.org and submit it!

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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