NewZ + FunnieZ + Has Google doomed online publishing?
Vol. 112 Handshake in The Hamptons With You
It’s a long post today, so we’re keeping this intro to helloZ and let’s-get-goings. NewZ, FunnieZ, and a bit of commentary on Google’s latest generative search feature, and what it all might mean for modern pubs. (It’s a freebie today, folks!)
In the words of modern martial arts master Mark Zuckerberg, it’s time to move on.
In a cruel and excellently humored twist of irony, Zoom is requiring employees to head back to the office. At least part of the time. Colleen Rodriguez, Zoom’s head of global PR, said the company believes a hybrid approach is most effective. The company synonymous with virtual meetings said that.
“It’s time to move on,” says Mark Zuckerberg re: Scheduled Cage Fight with fellow tech magnate Elon Musk. In a recent Threads post, Zuck says he’s “going to focus on competing with people who take the sport seriously.” It’s literally a teen movie script and I can’t even handle it.
The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City Season 4 kicks off Tuesday, September 5 at 9p. Monica Garcia, who in the show’s trailer says she was excommunicated from the Mormon church, joins the returning Housewives for the new season. We’re just like out here using ‘excommunicated’ in everyday lingo again? ZlataThoughts, coming to you live from the town square! Is she stoned for her sins or isn’t she? YOU decide!
It’s called football, mate. Whatever you call it, Apple TV+ can’t get enough soccer. Superstar Lionel Messi will be the subject of multiple documentaries on the streaming network, which also offers access to MLS Season Pass and everyone’s other favorite soccer programming, Ted Lasso.
TMZ, long known for its compelling serious news content, is releasing an investigative program about suspected serial killer Rex Heuermann. TMZ Investigates Gilgo Beach Serial Murders: Missed Warning Signs premieres Sunday, August 20 at 9 pm on Fox.
Pickleball, the best-named of all the balls, is still enjoying its 15 minutes of fame. The sport has seen a popularity increase of 85.7% year-over-year and by 158.6% over three years, according to the 2023 State of Pickleball: Participation & Infrastructure Report, which if you can believe it, is a real report. The average age of a pickleballer is 35, and the biggest age cohort is 25-34. And you know what, if I’m a senior pickleballer, I’m pissed. Like, wtf are you doing here, man? Don’t you have a 401K to save? Fkng t-ball to coach? Leave us alone and go home to your wife and 2.5 kids! This is for adults. Let us live! Alright. That’s enough, I took this too far.
Grab your lighter and hit the stairwell, it’s time for your joke break.
Affiliate ABZs: Is Google dooming the publishing industry?
I’ve seen and heard some rumblings lately about Google’s latest AI search feature called Search Generative Experience, or SGE. Basically, the new feature uses AI to generate short, article-style "snapshots" in response to search queries.
So far, Google says the whole thing is experimental and that it’s limited to testers who opt-in. But MySpace Tom once promised me no ads, so consider me a skeptic. The loudest voice in the room right now is coming from the publisher side. And with good reason.
Publishers have a legit gripe: As generative AI results become smarter and more comprehensive, users will have a dramatically reduced motivation to continue on to the publisher’s site. Worse still, the AI is USING PUBLISHED CONTENT from which to learn. You can see how this might ruffle some feaths with publishers.
The argument is that this kind of implementation will fundamentally change how users interact with the internet, significantly impacting traffic for digital publishers. And it’s got people worried.
In May, tech reporter Matt Novak wrote in Forbes that the change is akin to “dropping a nuclear bomb on an online publishing industry that’s already struggling to survive.”
IAC Chairman Barry Diller echoed similar concerns, especially considering there are currently no guardrails in place, saying “You can’t have fair use when there is an unfair machine that knows no bounds.”
The way I see it, there are two arguments at play for the publishers.
The ethical argument: It’s wrong for Google and Bing to “harvest” content from publishers to produce competitive content in search results. It’s in the same vein as plagiarism and it raises serious moral concerns about the integrity of journalism and publishing.
The financial argument: Publishers have learned how to monetize content based in large part to Google’s existing business model. To upend this model and screw over the very pillars of your model seems distasteful at best, and catastrophic at worst.
What’s Going to Happen?
The simple truth is we don’t know yet. What we do know is that this new feature automates the work of many writers and changes the relationship dynamics between Google and publishers. Currently, publishers create content, Google sends traffic, and everyone earns revenue from ads. If you take the content piece out, the rest of it crumbles. But that also means Google loses out on that same benefit. Because when publishers win, so do search engines. Soooo. If publishers lose … so do search engines. At least in some ways.
This is going to impact content in one way or another and to sit here and tell you I know exactly how would be a plain old guess. (Same for anyone else who is telling you they know how this story ends!) Unfortunately, I think it will mean the end for some smaller pubs — especially those already struggling with SEO and market share. This kind of disruption could very well be the death knell for them. Which sucks.
But I also think it will end up changing some of the publisher-Google partnership dynamics. Google is still interested in delivering a top-tier user experience, and the company recognizes what it stands to lose if publishers ultimately lose. Just this week, The New York Times changed its terms of service to prevent AI from scraping its content, signaling that change is definitely on the horizon.
While morals aren’t always the leading charge in business, I have to believe that financial gains are, and with those objectives in play, I think we’ll see a meeting of the minds between tech, publishers and brands to smooth out this thorny situation. Ultimately, I hope we’ll see some collaboration to establish new industry standards that reflect the world we live in. AI isn’t going away. Some companies might not make it out, but those who do have the collective power to put some guidelines in place that we can all live with. A girl can hope!
That’s all for today! Hope you enjoyed this freebie! Do me a fave and share with your friends and/or subscribe to support.