Publishers start to fight for IP as AI's LLMs scrape their content

PLUS Cats are out. Sloths are in. The traffic logic behind The Messenger.

We’re about six months into the hype cycle surrounding AI following the release of ChatGPT and mind-blowing AI image creation tools such as Stable Diffusion and Midjourney, and publishers are preparing for a fight to be compensated by companies that are scraping their content to train large-language models. It makes a lot of sense that companies that produce knowledge and information would want to have clear terms to licence their content for LLM training, and if done properly, it would value original reporting and compensate the journalists and the journalism companies for it. The Press Gazette has a piece on how news execs are arming themselves for a fight to get control of their IP.

Jim VanderHei has already built one media business, Politico, so it is worth lending him an ear when he talks about the future of the media business. Running through his eight trends is the expectation (which I tend to agree with) that AI will be used to create Content Farms 2.0, hyper efficient content engines that ramp up the velocity of content creation even if quality and accuracy takes a hit. And fundamentally, I think what we see is that direct relationships with your audience will be key. Someone recently mentioned to me that the lockscreen and your inbox are the two most intimate virtual spaces that we have in our lives. If you can convince someone to invite you into them, then you have the basis for a successful media business.

And it is impotnant to note that AI will not just roll through news and media but aso advertising. I present you Exhibit A. WPP, one of the major global ad players, has partnered with Nvidia about increasing the pace of ad creation. Ten years of investment in chip technology uniquely suited for AI work has suddenly become a major boost to Nvidia, a company that many people outside of gaming might not have heard of.

The FT has built an incredible media business based on a relentless focus on subscribers, which has fuelled its digital transformation has now decided how it will respond to AI. This is definitely a model to monitor.

Meanwhile, the commentary on The Messenger in the US continues with a deep dive into their growth hacker - Neetzan Zimmerman. Is his formula based on assumptions from the platform era, or can he adapt them to the rapidly changing audience development landscape?

Building audiences for local journalism

The rest of the articles that caught my eye today are about local journalism in some way.

Advance Local is the local newspaper division of Advance. You might be more familiar with Advance’s magazine division which includes The New Yorker and Wired. Their local newspapers have been suffering many of the same challenges as other newspaper groups in the US, and I watched as the Cleveland Plain Dealer continued to reduce its headcount over the four years that I lived there although they would argue that their digital operations expanded during that time. (That’s a complex story. Many local folks would point out that Advance was more than happy to shift headcount from the unionised Plain Dealer to the non-unionised

I want to highlight this piece from INMA because Advance Local’s Alabama operations recently want digital-only, and they have made a good point that other publishers in markets under stress will need to forecast when they will shut off the presses and start planning on how to achieve that.

Axios had been on a tear, launching local newsletter-based operations in almost 30 markets. They had planned on launching in many more, but they are now putting on the brakes as they have missed revenue targets. Is this due to the decelerating US economy? Or as my friend and former Dallas Morning News Chief Product Officer said on Twitter.

The American Journalism Project is working to support news start-ups and also legacy news operations with reporters. Their CEO talks about her pitch on to funders.

Molly de Aguiar and Josh Stearns give a great overview of what philanthropic support is doing to restore local journalism in the US, specifically New Jersey, but it has lessons elsewhere as well. It’s worth reading about what they have done with $2 m to seed projects there and elsewhere. It’s part of the story of signs of renewal in local journalism in the US.