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The battle for trusted news content in the age of AI

Prediction 2 - The New York Times will win its case against OpenAI

The story of news brands and AI going to war has already become the first big media news story of 2024, with the New York Times suing OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement – and it couldn’t come at a more critical time for the news industry.

Despite the growth of digital formats, print revenue is forecast to decline by 4.6% in 2023 and 2.9% in 2024 (GroupM), a year when trusted news sources will be more important than ever. The UK and US will have both gone to the polls by November, while wars in Ukraine and the Middle East show no signs of abating. England go into the Euros as top seeds, and the Olympic Games will be held on European soil for the first time in 12 years.

The demand for trusted and regulated reporting should be greater than ever. Over 75% of consumers are concerned about misinformation from artificial intelligence (Forbes) and we’ve already seen the first political deepfake (Keir Starmer in October 2023) reach 1.5m views on X. With 40% of the world’s population voting this year, the potential for AI-driven disruption seems high.

However, as the accuracy of full answers in AI Search improves, trust in AI-generated answers grows, and it seems set to reduce the need for a click-through, representing a significant potential loss in traffic. So while 2024 should be a bumper year for news brands, traditional publishers could be set to lose as much as 40% of their traffic to Google’s AI-powered Search and other GPTs.

We sit, therefore, on something of a knife edge.

Big tech needs the vast library of news content on the open web to make its answers more accurate and reliable, while news brands’ ad-supported model is reliant on SEO to drive visits.

Some publishers have looked to strike deals with AI firms to ensure at least some revenue is generated - however, as the current New York Times case shows if satisfactory deals can’t be made we will see more court cases. In the medium term, we predict GPT Models will sign licensing deals with major content publishers, creating a big new revenue stream for key news brands.

Implications for advertisers:

  • In a year of big news and with such mistrust in AI, aligning your brand to more trusted news brand environment can still deliver massive reach without the risk

  • AI will improve but will be neither ‘real-time’ nor fully trustworthy in 2024. If you need to activate in the (e.g. sporting) moment, then news brands will continue to outstrip AI for immediacy in a fast-changing new cycle

  • While few brands have as much content as the New York Times, could you create a new revenue stream by licensing valuable content to GPTs? Or set yourself up for future breakthroughs by training a large language model on your data and content?