There was a WaPo article on Friday about publishers seeking payments from OpenAI for using their copyrighted material for training purposes. Not a new thought.
However, there’s an anonymous quote in the article that got outsized attention as the unidentified spokesperson suggested that Reddit (the self-described “front page of the internet”) might also be willing to cut off Google and Bing search if it can’t be paid for its content.
This raises a much bigger question: Can Reddit (or any site) survive without search?
This is not just a question for publishers; it’s a question for everyone. Many publishers already use paywalls and require login to read more than a few articles per month. At the moment, ChatGPT Plus – using the “search with Bing” feature or using a plugin such as WebPilot or Link Reader – will happily browse the web for you. Sadly (for publishers), ChatGPT does not click on ads, nor does it subscribe to the sites.
Interestingly, this is bad for Google, Bing, and other ad-supported search engines as well; ChatGPT doesn’t click on sponsored posts either.
Could Reddit survive without search? Could any site do without the promotional power of Google? Will generative AI have to train on stories that have been summarized and rewritten by the millions of ad-supported sites that will use the same technology to rewrite stories by actual news organizations? If so, will that mostly synthetic data start us down the path to monocultural generative AI outputs?
Words are weapons. This seemingly innocuous tiff between publishers and AI will play a critically important role in the weaponized information supply chain. It deserves our attention.
Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it. This work was created with the assistance of various AI models, including but not limited to: GPT-4, Bard, Claude, Midjourney, Stable Diffusion, and others.