Generative AI is almost ubiquitous — what does that mean for media?

By Peter Bale


New Zealand and the U.K.


Google and Microsoft have done something amazing with the generative AI revolution: They’ve made it ubiquitous and almost boringly familiar almost at a stroke by embedding these amazingly powerful tools in devices and software we use constantly.

Genesis, the name for a three-tiered set of what amount to powerful answer-giving machines and an impossibly clever assistant in your pocket, gives Google a chance to rebound from having been somewhat blindsided by the success of Open AI and its partnership with Microsoft.

It may also have big implications for how news organisations respond to their readers, having access to even more information without the mediation traditionally carried out by media.

“This is your reminder that pretty soon everyone is going to have an LLM in their pocket, potentially remediating every piece of content a user consumes. Are media organisations ready for that future?” Nicholas Diakopoulos, professor of computational journalism at Northwestern University and a genuine expert in using generative AI in newsrooms, asked on X.

The Google announcement on Genesis makes clear we will all have AI with us all the time. Whether a Google product or a Microsoft CoPilot in Word, Excel, or on Bing, we are about to find that generative AI is as ubiquitous if not more so than Google Search has ever been.

As Diakopoulos suggests, the implications for news organisations are big but also hard to predict. We know newsrooms and all parts of publishers are rushing to test, try, and implement AI to help with storytelling, research, routine tasks, and marketing. But now we have to grapple with a fundamental shift — yet again — in how our readers will find and consume information.

If our customers have access to everything and to the best of everything, how does our role as curators and originators of information change?

The phenomenon of generative AI becoming almost boringly ubiquitous — and in record time — came up in this week’s INMA Newsroom Initiative Webinar, featuring top independent technology analyst Benedict Evans. Benedict illustrated the S-curve of technology adoption where products went from puzzling, to exciting, to “boring” — by which he means everywhere. 

Generative AI is on a path to become as common as a smartphone.
Generative AI is on a path to become as common as a smartphone.

Generative AI tools driven by vast large language models which digested almost the sum of human knowledge were racing to adoption faster than any technology before it.

For news publishers, many of whom are already seeing a fall in core search traffic as AI creeps into Google search, Benedict had an alarming wake-up call or warning: the end of links. If there are no links to your content, then the entire architecture of news discovery breaks. Salutary.

LLMs could mean the end of article links — the soul of news discovery.
LLMs could mean the end of article links — the soul of news discovery.

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About Peter Bale

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