With the demonstrations from Google on Bard and Microsoft on Bing AI co-pilot, publishers, and content creators are becoming more concerned about their future. A search results page with long, detailed, and incredibly smart answers to your queries versus a search results page with short descriptions and links to longer answers are two very different search result pages. One will likely drive fewer clicks from search to your content, resulting in less traffic, fewer impressions, and less ROI on your content.
In short, publishers and content creators are worried, and if publishers are worried, Google and Bing should likely also be concerned.
The concerns. There are several articles, blog posts and videos created over the past few days about this concern.
The WIRED wrote, “web users spend more time with bots and less time clicking links, publishers could be cut off from sales of subscriptions, ads, and referrals.”
The Verge wrote, “But if I ask the new Bing what the 10 best gaming TVs are, and it just makes me a list, why should I, the user, then click on the link to The Verge, which has another list of the 10 best gaming TVs?”
Famed YouTuber, Marques Brownlee, on his podcast spoke about the issues as well. Basically, about the concern around less clicks and then if publishers lose their incentive to publish content, how will that hurt the AI inputs that is being used to answer the questions in search – a “recursive problem” one of the hosts mentions.
Some publishers are even demanding royalties for content that the AI bots are consuming and regurgitating to their users.
Glenn Gabe, SEO expert, also dug into these issues in detail, saying “we’ll know fairly quickly if, and how, publishers can survive.” Since marketers rely a lot on data, the data will tell us quickly.
Not new but yet new. As I mentioned, this all reminds me of the concerns publishers had when Google launched featured snippets. It was a big topic, so much so, it was spoken about by the former head of Google Search, Amit Singhal, during an SMX keynote. Back then, Amit Singhal said search still needs publisher’s content after former editor at Search Engine Land and now Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan showed how Google was scraping publisher content and displaying it in its search results.
Over time, publishers mostly preferred to have the featured snippet over not. There has always been a lot of controversy around this topic.
But at the same time, this new form of answers, the AI chat form of answers, is very different from Google showing a two or three-line answer. Chat-based answers are long-winded, provide very detailed insights and literally give you almost all the options you need.
Should publishers be concerned. There is no question that in the current form, the new form of chat-based AI answers will lead to fewer clicks to publishers.
If you think about it, can these search engines or AI chat features work without content from publishers? Not in its current form. The AI systems need to train their models based on content on the web. If publishers lose the incentive to produce content, that should directly hurt the AI chat and search engines to produce timely and relevant answers to many questions.
So search engines need to ensure that content creators and publishers are happy. But the pain to get to that point might be very real. Time will tell, and it will be interesting to watch.
Why we care. If you produce content and rely on search to monetize that content, then you want to stay on top of this topic. There is no doubt that search engines like Bing and Google will continue to adapt in order to try to help publishers create content. How that looks, outside of deeply embedded links like Bing showed us in their demos, is going to change over time.
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