Publishing Execs Express Concern Over Generative AI’s Impact On Traffic And IP Protections

Publishing executives shared their honest and unfettered opinions on the rise of generative artificial intelligence technology and its impact on traffic, jobs and content production and protection at the Digiday Publishing Summit in Key Biscayne, Fla., last week.

In closed-door sessions, executives opened up about their concerns around how generative AI chatbots will impact site traffic and jobs in the media industry, and the limitations of protecting their content from chatbot web crawlers. On the other hand, the publishing execs described how they’re using AI to help with content production, ad sales and other tasks.

Execs were granted anonymity under Chatham House rules. Below are snippets from those conversations, which have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Impact on traffic “We’re probably going to lose traffic as people go to ChatGPT or whatever and type in a question that they would Google and then you don’t get the traffic from a link. It seems like a double whammy, where you lose the traffic and you lose being the trusted source of information… Once [ChatGPT] becomes more real time and it goes past [its limitation of accessing information no more recent than] 2021 — we’re a local news publication, so it would be [a real] impact.” “A summarized answer from a chatbot is not going to lead to clicks to the content, even if it’s included as a source at the bottom. People got the answer that they’re looking for — how many really do the follow-up reading to keep on going deeper and deeper and go to the source? It’s totally a traffic risk concern to me.” “The way that Google now is doing generative AI, in terms of serving up those search results, has a massive impact on how we are getting very, very high conversion traffic to our content. So we’re really having to start to think about… How are people going to want to search for products and get product recommendations 10 years from now?”

American Press Institute Awards $50,000 In Beyond Print Convening Grants To Support Digital Transformation

The American Press Institute awarded two $25,000 grants to The Keene Sentinel and the National Trust for Local News to support experimentation and progress around the print transition with the goal of keeping customers and revenues.

The grantees participated in the Beyond Print convening, an event hosted by API and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism in Detroit this past June. Over the course of two days, more than 20 news organizations shared best practices for shifting from print to digital revenue models while growing their customer bases. API offered the funding opportunity to help boost news organizations’ efforts following the event.

“The Keene Sentinel has been printing since 1799, but we know success and sustainability in the 21st century depend on our evolution into a digital-first news organization,” said Jack Rooney, managing editor for audience development at The Keene Sentinel. “The Beyond Print Convening provided us with invaluable insights and connections to inspire and guide this transformational work. Now, this grant funding will accelerate our efforts to meet our community’s growing need for trusted local news and information online.”

Each organization received funding to support the following community engagement work:

•› The Keene Sentinel will enhance its e-edition to improve readers’ experience, transition print subscribers to

digital products and provide automation that will allow The Keene Sentinel to redeploy resources to bolster

digital-first news coverage.

•› The National Trust for Local News will support a bilingual newsletter in Commerce City, Colorado, including

contracting a newsletter writer and editor to cover issues in Commerce City, such as affordable housing,

growth and development and local government decisions, with an aim at increasing the civic engagement of

residents. “We’re thrilled to receive an American Press Institute Beyond Print grant, which will enable us to provide important coverage to Commerce City, a growing Colorado community,” said Elizabeth Hansen Shapiro, CEO and co-founder of the National Trust for Local News. “This grant will allow us to move quickly to experiment and make adjustments based on community feedback. What we learn in Commerce City will inform our entire portfolio of nearly two dozen publications serving residents along Colorado’s Front Range.”

API and the Lenfest Institute for Journalism will be sharing insights and lessons from the news organizations’ initiatives in an upcoming Beyond Print Toolkit. To receive updates when the toolkit is published, fill out this form or subscribe to API’s Need to Know newsletter and updates from the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.

“We are happy to be providing The Keene Sentinel and the National Trust for Local News support in continuing their work inspired by the Beyond Print Convening,” said Emily Ristow, API’s director of local news transformation. “The work of these organizations will help inform best practices for other newspapers looking to make the urgent and crucial shift to reduce their reliance on print revenues.”

Ohio Enacts Law Curtailing Newspaper Notice

Earlier this month, we reported that through the end of the summer there were no states that had approved legislation significantly altering their public notice laws. We were wrong.

Unbeknownst to most in the newspaper business, two months earlier Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine had signed into law measures buried within the legislature’s 6,198-page budget bill that will bring sweeping changes to the state’s public notice regime. DeWine signed the bill less than a week after it passed both the GOP-dominated state House and Senate by wide margins on June 30.

Most importantly, Ohio HB-33 allows municipalities to publish many or most of their notices on their own websites and social media feeds or on the Ohio News Media Association’s statewide public notice website, instead of publishing them in local newspapers or legal journals. The bill also reduces the number of newspaper ads required to be published by some municipalities and state agencies in connection with specific types of notices; allows Ohio’s state environmental agency to publish all of its notices on its website instead of local newspapers and legal journals; and raises the spending threshold above which many or most government agencies are required to publish newspaper notices soliciting bids. It takes effect on Oct. 3.

Perhaps most bizarrely, HB-33 extends the state’s prohibition against newspapers charging a fee for publishing notices on ONMA’s statewide public notice website. (Ohio was one of the first states to pass a law requiring newspapers to publish their paid print notices free of charge on a state press association website. That law remains on the books.) The proscription against compensation now includes situations in which “the notice or advertisement is not otherwise published in a newspaper or journal.” Taken in tandem with the provision in HB-33 allowing municipalities to publish their notices on the ONMA website, it means the Ohio legislature passed a law that apparently requires the newspaper association to publish the state’s public notice ads without compensation.

The absurdity and potential illegality of forcing a press association to provide free services to the state demonstrates the extent to which the legislature was flying blind when it passed the bill. In a Sept. 18 email, ONMA President and Executive Director Monica Nieporte told her members the association “was never consulted about the functionality or capabilities of prior to enactment of the changes.” She also wrote the website wasn’t presently capable of accepting ads directly from customers. Moreover, most of the public notice provisions jammed into the bill had never been introduced or debated by the legislature.

Sneaking controversial, non-germane provisions into a humongous spending bill at the last minute is an opaque tactic permitted by many legislatures. At present, it isn’t clear when the public notice measures in HB-33 were added to the bill or who knew about them. But as far as we can tell, not a single newspaper or media outlet in the state has yet to report on their impact on public notice laws despite the fact the bill was signed into law on July 4.

There is still a lot we don’t know about the substance of the public notice provisions in HB-33 or about the process by which they were added to the bill. What is clear, however, is that Ohio is now the second state to pass a law allowing local governments to post a substantial portion of their notices on their own websites. While HB-33 is clearly less comprehensive than the bill passed last year by the Florida legislature, it contains fewer guardrails and hurdles before local governments can alter time-tested systems that provide their citizens with official notice.