18 votes

Who makes money when AI reads the internet for us?

23 comments

  1. [9]
    shadow
    Link
    Some people just love to create. Look at Wikipedia. I completely agree that I feel no sympathy for SEO optimized garbage pages with this change. For hobby pages, this change potentially removes...

    After all, if a web browser sucked out all information from web pages without users needing to actually visit them, why would anyone bother making websites in the first place?

    Some people just love to create. Look at Wikipedia.

    I completely agree that I feel no sympathy for SEO optimized garbage pages with this change.

    For hobby pages, this change potentially removes incentive for all but the most die hard fan groups, which is ok for me. Moving in the direction of less quantity and more quality.

    On to actual news sites, though. They're already struggling with monetization, and this hurts. I don't know the answer. I can see how certain small local stories could be crowdsourced like Wikipedia and put into RSS feeds. I already donate to NPR and my local station, so maybe that's the model for the larger stories up to regional/national?

    People watch TV and streaming, so maybe the ad prices there have to increase?

    All interesting stuff, but I don't agree that nobody will make websites anymore.

    21 votes
    1. [6]
      redwall_hp
      Link Parent
      The hand-wringing about monetization is just evidence that the information/entertainment explosion over the past 20 years is validating simple economics: a good with a near infinite supply and...
      • Exemplary

      The hand-wringing about monetization is just evidence that the information/entertainment explosion over the past 20 years is validating simple economics: a good with a near infinite supply and limited demand is worthless. People create art and curate information because they want to, always have and always will, and now that the distribution problem has been solved there will never be an artificial scarcity of it.

      Information and entertainment are post-scarcity, and that's a good thing for society. We should be rethinking capitalism and work culture, not trying to jam a djinn back into a bottle so we can keep pretending that treating imaginary goods like imaginary property makes sense.

      36 votes
      1. [2]
        unkz
        Link Parent
        The problem is quality control though, and not all information is of equal value. A billion blogs run by idiots that do nothing but rebroadcast dis/misinformation are worth less than a single...

        The problem is quality control though, and not all information is of equal value. A billion blogs run by idiots that do nothing but rebroadcast dis/misinformation are worth less than a single ethical journalist.

        It’s quality reporting that is running into a scarcity problem.

        21 votes
        1. raze2012
          Link Parent
          I thought I left a reply earlier, but I guess it never sent. I had a similar sentiment. Social media is the new "information" hub, and that alone shows how we regressed upon centuries of lessons...

          I thought I left a reply earlier, but I guess it never sent. I had a similar sentiment. Social media is the new "information" hub, and that alone shows how we regressed upon centuries of lessons the press learned and incorporated into their code (many rules of which were written in blood). But we see the exact same things happening, now with no "owner" except maybe a web host protected by article 243*. yellow "journalism", misinformation, libel/slander, exposure and harassment of subjects in a story (sometimes both happening within the platform).

          we may be able to get away without quality entertainment (though it would be a shame to lose), but not quality reporting.

          *which IMO is a good thing. And note that 243 refers to merely hosting information, not necessarily any algorithms that may skew results, which at that point is curation and a more hands on take for a company.

          2 votes
      2. shadow
        Link Parent
        In addition to what unkz mentioned, I would think that hard hitting journalism is something that needs to be paid. That is not a hobby as far as I can tell. Meaning: that needs to be somebody's...

        In addition to what unkz mentioned, I would think that hard hitting journalism is something that needs to be paid. That is not a hobby as far as I can tell. Meaning: that needs to be somebody's full time job, and that person needs to be able to live a decent life (at least).

        How many lives have been saved from explosive reporting on companies and governments? Those types of exposés require more than hobby level hours.

        We're not at post-scarcity yet. People still need to live decent lives. I want to help a journalist I trust to give me good information so I can be a better informed citizen. The problem is I can only afford so much to this effort.

        You said it yourself: near infinite supply and limited demand. That means exactly not worthless because there is some positive, non-zero intersection. It's worth $10 per month to me. Hopefully enough of other people think so. That way we can still ask the hard questions of our leaders and businesses.

        16 votes
      3. Dr_Amazing
        Link Parent
        It's funny that this article is appearing right next to one about the constant March of enshitification. It became too easy to make a quick buck putting out shitty low information web articles....

        It's funny that this article is appearing right next to one about the constant March of enshitification. It became too easy to make a quick buck putting out shitty low information web articles. Now users are tired of dealing with them. If it becomes less profitable to make these sort of sites than nothing is lost.

        Actual news sites are another story.

        3 votes
      4. nothis
        Link Parent
        Quality isn't "post-scarcity".

        Quality isn't "post-scarcity".

        1 vote
    2. GunnarRunnar
      Link Parent
      Respectfully disagree. I don't think people write Wikipedia pages just because it's fun to be an expert. It's fun to be an expert and share that knowledge. It's fun to leave a mark in the world,...

      After all, if a web browser sucked out all information from web pages without users needing to actually visit them, why would anyone bother making websites in the first place?

      Some people just love to create. Look at Wikipedia.

      Respectfully disagree. I don't think people write Wikipedia pages just because it's fun to be an expert. It's fun to be an expert and share that knowledge. It's fun to leave a mark in the world, make an impact, even if all things considered it's miniscule.

      AI sucking all this stuff into itself is damaging the same way it's damaging to those that are looking to monetize their content. It's not fun to be an invisible cog in a machine, where the machine takes your work and rearranges it so there isn't your fingerprint to be found.

      Brought to the real world this argument obviously hinges on Wikipedia losing its popularity, which probably isn't at the moment that realistic but I just wanted to highlight that there is something AI can take away from volunteers and hobbyists as well.

      4 votes
    3. raze2012
      Link Parent
      I agree with your core point, but I think Wikipedia shows exactly how and why there will always be non-monetary incentives to create. I don't think anyone would disagree after a brief peek into...

      I agree with your core point, but I think Wikipedia shows exactly how and why there will always be non-monetary incentives to create. I don't think anyone would disagree after a brief peek into the revision history is one of the most fervent political battlegrounds on the net, despite appearing benign on the surface. And it's not like Wikipedia doesn't have millions in funding behind it.

      Moving in the direction of less quantity and more quality.

      I see it more as a pendulum than a slider. Old guard leaves and the new guard starts to create, serving a demand. Then they either start to monetize and grow or a competitor comes in with a goal to monetize and grow. The cycle repeats because many investors either don't know nor care of the history; a company that grows for 2 years and then crashes in 2 more years still gives an investor what they want (and they pull out when convinient for them). The cycle repeats because consumers will still consume while it's convinient, and often even past that; they don't often think of long term ramifications of their consumption. Snowflake in an avalanche.

      2 votes
  2. [5]
    aetherious
    Link
    I'm curious about how monetization will change in the near future as a result of this. As a reader/user, I strongly prefer reading these AI-generated summaries because SEO-driven web had become a...

    I'm curious about how monetization will change in the near future as a result of this. As a reader/user, I strongly prefer reading these AI-generated summaries because SEO-driven web had become a bane on the usefulness of search engines with a lot of cluttered information just filled with keywords to rank higher and get clicks to serve ads rather than focus on actually providing useful information. I can't say I feel particularly bad for the websites that published low-quality keyword-stuffed content that dominates search engine result pages but I can empathize with publications that don't get the engagement they deserve for their original content but I don't see this AI summary feature going away anytime soon so I am eager to see some smart people figure out workarounds to find some fair monetization.

    11 votes
    1. [4]
      tanglisha
      Link Parent
      These sites are so frustrating. I was trying to look up germination times for different seeds earlier. Almost all the results were a little outline: What is asparagus? Why should I grow asparagus?...

      These sites are so frustrating. I was trying to look up germination times for different seeds earlier. Almost all the results were a little outline:

      • What is asparagus?
      • Why should I grow asparagus?
      • Can you grow asparagus from a seed?
      • How do you grow asparagus from a seed?

      I didn't get an actual answer until I spotted an article from a university.

      The thing about AI generated content is that it's going to also be reading AI generated content. I've seen articles like I describe above with very obviously conflicting information. These sites have excellent SEO, and sometimes I waste several minutes before I realize the content is a mish mash of repeated and conflicting content. Would an AI search bot be able to recognize that at all?

      16 votes
      1. [3]
        Weldawadyathink
        Link Parent
        I would highly recommend Kagi search for dealing with those SEO articles. It can contain all the listicle style articles together so they don’t look like normal results, or remove them entirely....

        I would highly recommend Kagi search for dealing with those SEO articles. It can contain all the listicle style articles together so they don’t look like normal results, or remove them entirely. It doesn’t get everything but it helps immensely. Then you can also change the priority of each domain in all your searches. As soon as you find one of those websites, you can block it from searches entirely. It has made using the internet much more pleasant for me.

        5 votes
        1. [2]
          mordae
          Link Parent
          I am using Kagi and compared to Google, the results are significantly better. This kind of crap still makes it's way into the results, though. I would love more community driven blacklisting.

          I am using Kagi and compared to Google, the results are significantly better. This kind of crap still makes it's way into the results, though. I would love more community driven blacklisting.

          5 votes
          1. tanglisha
            Link Parent
            I already am using it. Unfortunately for certain topics those answers keep bubbling up. I like that I can promote results I like. The opposite could be short term useful but I could definitely see...

            I already am using it. Unfortunately for certain topics those answers keep bubbling up. I like that I can promote results I like. The opposite could be short term useful but I could definitely see it getting abused.

            Maybe there could be curated lists like pihole has.

            3 votes
  3. [6]
    Rez
    Link
    Short of some policy change, I suspect the eventual future might be that tech companies start hiring journalists to produce news. After all, if you bankrupt the news industry, you'll now have...

    Last week, Matt Karolian, the vice president of platforms, research and development at The Boston Globe typed “top Boston news” into Arc Search and hit “Browse for Me”. Within seconds, the app had scanned local Boston news sites and presented a list of headlines containing local developments and weather updates. “News orgs are gonna lose their shit about Arc Search,” Karolian posted on Threads. “It’ll read your journalism, summarize it for the user…and then if the user does click a link, they block the ads.”

    Local news publishers, Karolian told Engadget, almost entirely depend on selling ads and subscriptions to readers who visit their websites to survive. “When tech platforms come along and disintermediate that experience without any regard for the impact it could have, it is deeply disappointing.” Arc Search does include prominent links and citations to the websites it summarizes from. But Karolian said that this misses the point. “It fails to ponder the consequences of what happens when you roll out products like this.”

    Short of some policy change, I suspect the eventual future might be that tech companies start hiring journalists to produce news. After all, if you bankrupt the news industry, you'll now have nothing to summarize and your users will be frustrated and your product useless. Given this, though nearly all of us take it for granted, the true source of value comes down to the reporter. The algorithmic AI that summarizes the reporter's content to make it conveniently accessible to a wide audience is merely feeding off of and amplifying that value, and not generating original value of its own. No one wants to pay for the news but we all want it. Professional news producers have been going more and more bankrupt by the day for years now. Eventually there will be a breaking point. Once we start to hit that breaking point and the tech companies have sucked the news industry dry, they'll probably start to hire a lot of journalists. After all, it doesn't matter how good your AI is compared to competitors if your AI doesn't have any news to summarize. The realm of competition will have to shift. If you want the people of Boston to use your AI over a competing one, in an era when all local news businesses in Boston have shuttered and there's basically no news for the tech industry to "pirate", the people there are going to pick the one that can actually give them Boston news, which would mean instead of hiring developers, you're going to need to hire journalists.

    7 votes
    1. [4]
      Sodliddesu
      Link Parent
      Isn't... Isn't that saying "Arc will violate the copyright for you"? I mean, the key is removing the desire for the original product. Is there some silver bullet that prevents them from just...

      “It’ll read your journalism, summarize it for the user…and then if the user does click a link, they block the ads.”

      Isn't... Isn't that saying "Arc will violate the copyright for you"? I mean, the key is removing the desire for the original product. Is there some silver bullet that prevents them from just getting sued into oblivion?

      7 votes
      1. Rez
        Link Parent
        That function has in spirit already existed for over a decade in my opinion, it's just a matter of AI further iterating on that. A lot of tech companies have been freeriding off the work of...

        That function has in spirit already existed for over a decade in my opinion, it's just a matter of AI further iterating on that. A lot of tech companies have been freeriding off the work of journalists for a while and no one's been sued into oblivion for it. I do hope though they do find more of a legal way to accomplish that though, so we can just go straight to journalists getting paid for their work instead of the whole "disrupt and destroy an industry and then recreate it with a different owner" phase.

        5 votes
      2. [2]
        unkz
        Link Parent
        Although is it significantly different than me hiring someone to read the news for me and summarize it? Or does the fact that a human was in the loop change the situation? I actually have a...

        Although is it significantly different than me hiring someone to read the news for me and summarize it? Or does the fact that a human was in the loop change the situation?

        I actually have a process that reads all the AP news and summarizes it for me, and pushes things that I thinks I will care about to my slack. I’ll click through to the original article if I want more details but I’d say 90% of the time, a one paragraph summary is all I care to investigate.

        2 votes
        1. shadow
          Link Parent
          I would say yes, there is a difference. That difference being the person you hired is clicking on the article and being served ads. At least somebody is "paying" for the information.

          I would say yes, there is a difference.
          That difference being the person you hired is clicking on the article and being served ads.
          At least somebody is "paying" for the information.

          1 vote
    2. unkz
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I have an alternative view of the potential future that may involve robot drones attending press conferences, sporting events, crime scenes, and even engaging in investigative journalism. Imagine...

      I have an alternative view of the potential future that may involve robot drones attending press conferences, sporting events, crime scenes, and even engaging in investigative journalism.

      Imagine this as a feature of existing automated vehicles like robotaxis or google maps cars or even Amazon delivery drones — they could be side hustling news gathering in addition to their regular tasks.

      1 vote
  4. tanglisha
    Link
    This article seems very blame focused to me. Even if they talked this particular company out of doing this, a half dozen other companies are going to have this functionality in a few months with...

    This article seems very blame focused to me. Even if they talked this particular company out of doing this, a half dozen other companies are going to have this functionality in a few months with varying degrees of quality.

    We've gone from a mostly free web to a web of ads and paywalls. Lots of websites existed before monetization was even a thing; people wrote about what they loved then added flickering candles and waving flags.

    The beginning of monetization resulted in a lot of radical changes in how business is done and how money is made. How many book stores are in your area? Do you still visit malls? When's the last time you sat down and read a newspaper? These things do still exist, but their level of importance in our lives has changed.

    It feels to me like we're on the cusp of a similarly far reaching change. Blaming individual companies for doing what they're incentivized to do is like blaming millennials for killing the diamond, housing, and wedding industries.

    5 votes
  5. [2]
    Pun
    Link
    I'm sure it isn't what they intended, but, for me, this article worked like an ad for the Arc browser. I'd heard of it in passing, but this got me to sign up for the waitlist. The fact that...

    I'm sure it isn't what they intended, but, for me, this article worked like an ad for the Arc browser. I'd heard of it in passing, but this got me to sign up for the waitlist.

    "Web creators are trying to share their knowledge and get supported while doing so."

    The fact that someone operates on the logic of "no one creates if there's no money in it" makes me a bit sad. There are, and have always been, communities that operate entirely on "inform/educate/help others". Wikipedia, wikis in general, TVTropes, tech support subreddits, old style discussion forums, tutorial videos and so on. These things existed before the term "content creator" was even coined. In some cases, I would even argue that "content" was higher quality because they weren't getting paid for it; it was all passion driving them. Why would anyone choose to create something worthwhile when they could join the mass of clickbaiting, algorithm curated slop, while raking in thousands.

    It's not just information/knowledge either. As a teen I spent around five years making music because I enjoyed it. Just creating brought me pleasure. Barely anyone else has heard that music and I sure as hell haven't sold any. I don't even have the desire to. And I'm sure van Gogh wasn't paid for the paintings he made during his asylum stay. Supposedly the number of works sold during his lifetime is in the single digits.

    I have now filled my daily narcissism quota by comparing myself to van Gogh.

    Some condescending snark to top it off:

    "I get how this helps users. How does it help creators? Without them there is no web."

    This just in! We finally have proof of the internet spontaneously manifesting in 2015, when the cashflow hit steady returns.

    4 votes
    1. winther
      Link Parent
      Even if many don't write stuff for money, one of the joys of putting stuff online is knowing your stuff gets read by other people sharing your interest and they might get in contact. If an AI is...

      Even if many don't write stuff for money, one of the joys of putting stuff online is knowing your stuff gets read by other people sharing your interest and they might get in contact. If an AI is just summarizing my writings and they are profiting on their summaries of my writing without even mentioning me, I feel like I would at least lose some motivation in that process. Of course I can't speak for everybody, but I have some doubts that all the voluntary stuff you mention will have the same amount of participation if it ends up just being a free data feed for big AI companies to make a profit from indirectly.

      3 votes