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OpenAI's Unprecedented Deal with the Media and What's at Stake

What happens when the AI cooking up your news buffet has limited ingredients? Will a well-balanced journalistic meal be served with the OpenAI media deal?


AI generated image showing a news stew - Created by DALL-E
AI generated image showing a news stew - Created by DALL-E

News Consumption through the Decades

To look forward in this blog post, it was important to look back. I began my career as a young journalist in TV news back in 1992, and since then, the way people consume news has changed dramatically. Back in those days, the idea of posting stories on the internet was unheard of – heck, TV stations didn't even have websites. In the early '90s, TV reigned supreme, with the majority of the audience glued to local TV and network news broadcasts. Look at some of these statistics from a 2004 Pew Research article titled Where Americans Go for News.


In 1993, 77% of Americans regularly turned to Local TV to get their news, and cable news was the new kid on the block.


Newspapers were a close second for regular consumption of news followed by the radio. As for the internet, online news was barely a blip on the radar, not appearing in statistics until '96.


As I reflect on these statistics from the Pew Research Center, I smile because, back in the '90s, posting our news content to the internet was always an afterthought—we knew hardly anyone was reading our stories on the web.



But now, the narrative has flipped. Digital is the go-to for news, and TV viewership continues its decline, dropping six more points from 2022 to 2023.



Within the digital realm, we're not just sticking to one lane; our routes to news information are continuing to expand. We're navigating through a variety of channels, from news apps and search engines to social media and podcasts.


The rising star for news content on social media? Drum roll, please... It's TikTok! A whopping 43% of TikTok users now regularly get their news from the platform, a significant jump from just 22% in 2020. This meteoric rise tells us that the landscape of news consumption is rapidly evolving, favoring platforms that offer quick, visually engaging content.



The dawn of a new news era

Reflecting on the evolution of news consumption over the past 30 years brings us to the heart of the matter: OpenAI's deal with Axel Springer SE.

OpenAI has agreed to pay global news publisher Axel Springer SE a significant sum to access the company's news articles to train its AI models. Springer's publications include Politico, Business Insider, and German publications, Bild and Welt.


Here's a snapshot of OpenAI's announcement.

The initiative will enrich users’ experience with ChatGPT by adding recent and authoritative content on a wide variety of topics, and explicitly values the publisher’s role in contributing to OpenAI’s products. This marks a significant step in both companies’ commitment to leverage AI for enhancing content experiences and creating new financial opportunities that support a sustainable future for journalism."

The Core Issue

On the surface, this is exciting news, we're about to test new journalistic waters. But how is this going to work if OpenAI's AI is cooking up news summaries based on a select menu? Won't that be a recipe for a bias? What about the news organizations or lesser-known entities that don't have deals with OpenAI? How will we make sure the AI model's data diet is as diverse as the world we live in?


Tech Control over News

We've watched social media companies grapple with controlling what's shared on their platforms and by whom. Will OpenAI have to start playing bouncer, deciding which media outlets get past the velvet rope to train AI? If Meta's dance with moderation teaches us anything, it's that balancing the scales of information is a controversial endeavor. Here’s to hoping OpenAI has a good recipe for mixing in a wide array of news sources, seasoning it just right to avoid dishing out a bland, biased, or even dangerous narrative.


Conclusion:

We're not asking AI to whip up a five-star gourmet meal just yet, but rather a good, honest, home-cooked news spread that represents all the flavors of our world. It's crucial that our AI chefs incorporate the less-known ingredients, ensuring that when we sit down to consume our daily news, it's a meal that truly satisfies our hunger for balanced, diverse, and unbiased information.


I can't help but Imagine the potential: AI could serve as a bridge in our divided society, introducing us to a range of viewpoints and ideas beyond our usual feeds. However, it's also important to acknowledge that AI and algorithms have played a role in creating the echo chambers that often limit us to news reflecting only our existing beliefs. I like to think that if AI has the power to deepen divides, it equally possesses the capability to broaden our horizons, challenge our preconceptions, and foster a more informed and open-minded society – provided it is guided by the right human hands.


Let's keep the conversation going in the comments. What are your thoughts on AI's role in shaping our news landscape? Any insights, humorous quips, or even skeptical eyebrows are welcome!


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