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The Publisher Lab: Search to Evolve Over Next 10 Years, Legal Woes for ChatGPT & AI, & Value of Facebook to Publishers

The Publisher Lab: Search to Evolve Over Next 10 Years, Legal Woes for ChatGPT & AI, & Value of Facebook to Publishers

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Welcome back to another podcast recap. The news has mostly been focused on a few hot topics and we cover how those stories have evolved. This week we have some news from Google’s CEO on the future of Google, ChatGPT versus the world, and what value Facebook brings to publishers.

You can watch the episode on YouTube or listen wherever you get podcasts.

Google CEO says search will substantially change in the next decade

Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai was recently interviewed by The Wall Street Journal and said the Google search experience “will evolve substantively over the next decade.”

Pichai was cryptic about what Google search would look like in the future, but he did say that search and AI will become more personalized and that he wants to bring modern LLM capabilities into search. 

It’s likely that search will become less and less relevant in the future, or at least how we do it now. Search engines are the wrong tool for many jobs that we’re doing already, but they’re the right tool for some things. For example, when we want to buy something, we might search for it on Google and then be pointed in a certain direction. However, when we’re looking for an answer or trying to figure out how to do something, we want a direct answer, not just a list of websites. That’s the difference between AI and search.

In the future, there will be a tool that offers something new, and our behaviors will be defined by that tool, not by using a search engine as a means to an end. He thinks that Google will become less relevant as an integrated form of technology that we use and that we’ll use AI and other personalized tools instead.

Generative AI tools under legal scrutiny worldwide

ChatGPT and other generative AI tools are experiencing legal troubles all over the world. ChatGPT was recently banned in Italy, the UK recommends AI regulation, the EU is currently working on passing an Artificial Intelligence Act, and the US is defining an AI Bill of Rights. There have been many users who have filed complaints worldwide concerning the potential safety issues of generative AI.

It seems that, even in one week, this story has escalated quite a bit.

Though ChatGPT has been banned in Italy, there are still many open-source versions of generative AI that Italians could easily access; so, while it is interesting that Italy chose to ban ChatGPT, it’s not nearly as critical as if Italy banned generative AI altogether.

Where AI really can get in legal trouble is a technology that copies people’s voices; there are plenty of AI programs out there that are able to “listen” to someone talking and regenerate the voice, even auto-tuning it for singing. This begs the question—could someone sample a voice and release recordings without consent?

These court cases are the first of their kind and there are likely to be more—keep an eye on the rulings that pertain to your region.

Is Facebook still valuable to publishers?

Meta commissioned a report about Facebook recently that found that news links account for under 3% of posts seen in feeds. The report is in response to legislation passed in Australia in 2021, where publishers wanted to be paid for news content.

Facebook took action on how much news content is displayed by changing the algorithm regularly. Additionally, it stopped paying US publishers to use their content for the Facebook News tab and dropped Instant Articles.

It’s estimated that publishers receive about 1-1.5% of their total revenue from Facebook referrals, so while it’s not the majority of their revenue, it still brings in a decent amount of money. Despite this small percentage, however, a survey of more than 100 publishers showed that 75% of publishers still use Facebook to reach younger audiences.

Should publishers still bother with Facebook? On one hand, you’re only earning 1-1.5% of your revenue through Facebook and the amount of articles shown on Facebook has declined greatly in the past few years. However, on the other hand, it seems to be where publishers are getting a significant flow of traffic with younger audiences.

Sometimes, the data from studies like this can be difficult to fully decipher. Yes, it may show that many younger users are still on Facebook, but then you also have to consider that in many developing countries, Facebook is a part of how all citizens use the internet; to access many things online, you have to use a Facebook account. This situation, and ones like it, may warp the results of the survey.

Questions and comments from the audience

Would revenue decrease if Google’s Bard Chatbot is incorporated into Google’s search engine?

The introduction of chatbots into Google search may not affect articles or long-form content but may impact niche factual information that requires expert answers. Chatbots may also make the search ad space more competitive, potentially increasing ad rates. User behavior will define the impact of chatbots on revenue and traffic, and the speaker believes that there will likely be unforeseen consequences that could redefine the ways in which people use AI.

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.