What does the SEO-AI conversation mean to news media publishers?

By Jodie Hopperton


Los Angeles, California, United States


One of the debates we had at Newsgeist was around SEO and AI. The session was called: “Is SEO a dead duck? Is generic search an extinction-level event for news? What can help the discovery of news?”

There are a few answers to this.

The short one is yes, it could be. Generative AI could answer questions that customers pose, meaning there is no need for news sites. 

But that is an overly simplistic view which is likely not true.

Already we are seeing that people do not come to news sites for short factual answers to events that are certain (When is tonight’s football? Is there a war in Ukraine?). Search has been doing that for a long time, firstly through links and more and more in app. And they do it better. Much, much better.

When looking up flight details, Google is now always my go-to because the UX is so good. This is only going to accelerate with generative AI. And news sites are rubbish at that as a whole. We don’t deal in short, sharp information. We mostly optimise for time and attention. 

Where news sites add value is where there is nuance and content is needed. Why is the flooding in New York so bad? What is going on with Ukraine and Russia? This is where our industry shines; it’s where we do great things.

At some point, there is likely to be a tipping point where the degradation of traffic because of GenAI tools will outweigh the value of having sites open to scraping for SEO purposes to drive traffic. It will be a pretty basic equation. If this happens on a wide scale, it will be at the detriment to LLMs (large language models) because reportable sources for current content is essential for generative AI tools to be effective for consumers.

If this happens, deals will need to be struck. The big publishers will be just fine, and we’ll have to hope that the smaller publishers band together. 

What I suspect is a more likely outcome is that generative AI chatbots will show some sources and links. To be fair, many already do. 

Below are a few current versions. These are likely to change, but it’s a positive start.

  • Bing GenAI shows sources and directly links to “learn more” as you can see here:

  • ChatGPT will often point to searching the Web for more but does not provide actual links (this may be because it is not “live” — it is still based on results up to a certain point in time):

  • AndiSearch suggest places to go for more information:

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About Jodie Hopperton

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