- Google is integrating AI into search results, which should have brand publishers worried.
- Brands are trying to syndicate content via news sites like MSN and NBC.
- Macy’s has sold ads on its own site for years but is now using its audience data to power ads for third-parties across the Internet.
Search is getting an AI facelift. Google introduced a suite of changes to its core search product at its I/O conference last week, and brand publishers could find the changes have significant implications for how they attract and engage audiences.
For example: When a user searches for something on Google, the new results page could include an AI-powered answer at the top of the page. That’s already a huge change, as it effectively cuts down on the amount of real estate that other search results receive. The AI-powered results, at least for now, will only appear when Google thinks it’s going to be more useful than standard results. But what shows up – at least according to the demos I’ve seen – is impressive: Concise information that answers queries, with links “corroborating” where Google sourced that information from.
The announcement sent Google stock to its highest level since August, and it will have some brand publishers reeling. One of the more troubling impacts of generative chatbots has been a sudden shift in how users find and access expertise.
For most brand publishers, content is a way to demonstrate in-house expertise on specific issues and topics. That expertise can be hard to find and may touch on topics or ideas that mainstream media doesn’t cover, but it could previously be used to attract specific and engaged audiences via search results.
Now, those search pages may not lead people to brand publications at all. It’s still unclear how the Google search implementation will change – and it will change – or what sources Google’s results draw on to inform those results. But pulling AI onto the valuable real estate that is the search results page threatens to upend entire distribution strategies for brand publishers. Depending on how these results appear on pages, anyone creating content may find that downstream traffic is impacted. And certain brand content may be affected more than others’: For example, those publishing commoditized content may find that their traffic is impacted more than those exploring nuanced or complicated topics, for example. Google’s move is, as the Verge put it, a rethinking of how billions of people find information online.
News publishers have already begun pushing back on the increasing encroachment of platforms and their AI into their domains. Per: IAC chairman Barry Diller last month: “If all the world’s information is able to be sucked up into this and then essentially repackaged in declarative sentences….there will be no publishing.”
Another factor here worth considering is how advertising plays into Google’s search updates. So far, the demos of the reimagined AI-driven search results do not include advertising. But they probably will – since the vast majority of Google’s revenues have been derived from advertising since its inception. One possibility is that the integration of AI into search could affect how much “free” traffic is sent to brand publications and brand content.
Similar search changes are also coming to Bing, which has an “AI copilot” that reviews results from across the Internet and presents users with a summary to the answer they’re looking for. And ChatGPT, the AI chatbot developed by OpenAI, has already gained significant traction for users looking for everything from information to queries to help with their day-to-day tasks. That also has the possibility of becoming a “front door” for user access to information.
As we wrote earlier: Anyone in the business of media has seen this movie before; brands typically have to pay for access to audiences one way or another.
Brand publishers experiment with syndicating content to news sites
As brand publishers hunt for ways to reach and engage new audiences, some are experimenting with opportunities to syndicate content to “traditional” news publishers and media outlets. Publishers are constantly looking for unique and interesting stories, and brands are increasingly amassing libraries of high-quality content they may wish to tap into, the thinking goes.
Swyft Filings is one company exploring the approach. The Texas-based company offers a range of business formation and management services and is attempting to position itself alongside larger, more established competitors. In order to do so, Swyft has built a full content operation that publishes up to 40 articles a month on its own site which are largely designed to educate readers interested in starting a business.
Macy’s owned media strategy
More brand publishers are trying to sell advertising to generate revenue from their content and publishing operations. Some are going further, licensing the first-party data they have via purchase decisions helps generate to help other advertisers target their advertising more effectively.
This is a new move for the company, which until now only sold ads on its owned-and-operated websites, alongside content and retail pages, and on screens in stores.
AdExchanger reports that the brand will continue to sell ads on its own sites, but will now also use adtech partner The Trade Desk to target advertising to specific shopper segments – such as people who buy Nike sneakers – across third-party sites.
As for the ads on its own sites, the Macy’s is focused on expanding into non-endemic advertisers – that is, companies that aren’t directly in the fashion or retail space. Advertisers on its sites have included food services companies, but the brand also wants to now reach parenting products brands, for example, since those people often shop at Macy’s. So for example, a diaper brand may pay Macy’s to advertise on its website, since prospective parents are the ideal Macy’s customer.
As brands become publishers, more are also becoming true media companies in this aspect as well. Many are under pressure to show revenue growth from their content operations, especially during a tough economic climate, making the opportunity to eke out ad revenue from publishing sound much more attractive.
Also worth noting:
- A new study by Ogury found that 64% of marketers plan to increase budgets toward suppliers that don’t rely on third-party cookies or any personal data collection. The industry as a whole is slowly inching towards figuring out what a cookie-less future looks like – and for many, content is going to be a key way to get customer first-party data.
- AudiencePlus launched new software that will help marketers build brand publishing operations, from building media properties to connecting audience engagement with revenue. (Sponsored.)
- News publishers are adding AI chatbots to their offerings, in an effort to deepen user and audience engagement.
- How’s the Barstool acquisition working out for Penn Entertainment? After a series of controversies, it turns out it may not exactly be paying dividends for the sports betting company.