CareCredit - Women's Health April 2024

News Execs Wary of Google’s AI Integration Impact on Web Traffic

Google AI

News publishers are reportedly alarmed by what Google’s AI means for their business.

As the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported Thursday (Dec. 14), Google’s move to integrate its “Search Generative Experience” artificial intelligence (AI) tool has underlined the dangers for media companies of depending on the tech giant to bring their stories to readers.

The report notes that news outlets are already suffering from a drop in traffic from social media sites, with both Facebook and Twitter moving away from news distribution. Google’s AI-powered search could make things worse, as Google generates almost 40% of publishers’ traffic, the report said, citing a WSJ analysis of data from Similarweb.

The WSJ also cites findings from a task force at the news magazine The Atlantic, which gets about 40% of its web traffic from Google searches.

That task force studied what would happen if Google integrated AI into search, and found that 75% of the time, the AI-powered search would deliver a complete answer to a user’s question and deprive the Atlantic of that potential traffic.

“AI and large language models have the potential to destroy journalism and media brands as we know them,” said Mathias Dopfner, chairman and CEO of Axel Springer.

His company, which owns Business Insider and Politico, announced Wednesday (Dec. 13) a deal to license content to OpenAI.

“We want to explore the opportunities of AI empowered journalism — to bring quality, societal relevance and the business model of journalism to the next level,” Dopfer said in announcing that partnership.

According to the WSJ report, Google says its AI product is still being developed, though publishers say they have seen enough to determine they’ll lose 20% to 40% of Google-generated traffic. Google has said it is prioritizing sending traffic to publishers.

However, news publishers aren’t just concerned about AI’s impact on traffic. Earlier this year, a group of major news media organizations called for the regulation of AI model operators on their use of copyrighted materials.

Industry bodies such as the News Media Alliance and the European Publishers’ Council are pushing for a framework that lets them “collectively negotiate” with AI model operators regarding the use of their intellectual property, according to a letter published in August.

“Generative AI and large language models … disseminate that content and information to their users, often without any consideration of, remuneration to, or attribution to the original creators,” the letter said. “Such practices undermine the media industry’s core business models.”