AI Is Coming for Content Creators
This Week In Writing, we look at how AI is changing the content landscape and why that might be a good thing.
Two years ago, I pondered if robots were coming for our jobs. My musing concluded that human writers are irreplaceable. Well, here we are, quickly learning how wrong I was.
In this weekend’s issue of, Ryan Broderick painted a very grim picture:
CNET appointed a “senior vice president of AI content strategy”. And Mathias Döpfner, the CEO of Axel Springer, is mulling over a one-two punch of layoffs and AI replacements for writers. Look, this is happening. It won’t happen to every sector of journalism (right away), but it’s happening. Breaking news, consumer journalism, celebrity news, aggregation, there’s a lot of roles that are going to be augmented or outright replaced with AI. Get yourself in a union and start figuring out how to protect your jobs. The bright side, or at least, the not super depressing side, about this is I think AI writing will probably create a bigger demand for voicier, opinionated, human writing. Maybe? But we’re about to lose A LOT of roles for professional writers.
I’m not sure the future is as bleak as Ryan thinks, but I’ve also been wrong before. The writing world is experiencing significant AIification, and corporations will always look for ways to cut expenses. Why pay a writer $0.01/word (an awful rate in and of itself, but that’s not our topic today) when an AI can churn out SEO clickbait for free and at 100x the speed?
Look, like it or not, this will affect paid writers in many industries. Ryan’s right; breaking news, consumer journalism, celebrity news, and other types of content creators are likely in for a rude awakening. I understand that is likely many of the people reading this newsletter, and I’m sorry. But let’s look at the good this AI revolution can potentially bring.
All writers are worth way more than $0.01/word. Hell, even beginning writers are likely worth more than $1.00/word. Though, most content farms don’t care. They don’t typically even care about quality. They only care about SEO-driven ad traffic.
I’ve talked a lot lately about the changing writing world. Algorithmic and SEO-driven content has forced many good writers to create meaningless crap. For what?
Look, I don’t disparage you if that’s your route. There was a time when I would have killed to have my name on some of these content sites, regardless of how insulting the pay was. But, I think we’re all going to very quickly see that the whole industry is in for a crash.
As search engines become glorified chatbots that only cite sources, there will be zero need for anyone to click on these content blogs. Why click through the link when the information you seek is right there in the result?
Instead of feeding that empire for someone else’s paycheck, I encourage writers to find their own voice. Stop creating content and start writing. Tell your stories. Lean into your experience.
As Ryan pointed out in the Garbage Day piece, there is likely a wave of demand for authentic, original voices. No matter how good an AI writer is, it can’t replace you. Your experience, your opinions, and your voice is unique.
Look, if you like reporting on celebrities or entertainment, go for it! This isn’t about one type of writing vs. another. Instead, it’s about finding ways to inject yourself into the piece. Create your own voice that differentiates itself from what an AI can generate.
As we’re very quickly learning, companies will figure out how to replace humans with automation. So, make yourself irreplaceable. There will always be a market for unique, well-constructed human writing. It’s time we all put the content days behind us.
Speaking of Content Creators…
Here’s a unique take I’ve never heard before: Jayne Austen, Walt Whitman, and Virginia Woolf were all self-published authors. Self-publishing has a long history going back decades. Now, a new Harvard exhibit showing the history goes back even further. If you live in the Boston area, check out this exhibit and let me know what you learn.
Speaking of Authors…
Last week was the book club for The Storied Life of AJ Fikry and, well, it was terrific! We had a great chat about the book (and briefly about the film). There will be more live discussions in My Writing Community’s future. Want access? Upgrade your This Week In Writing subscription.
Speaking of Access…
Next week is International Question Day, so I figure it’s a good opportunity to provide some answers. Want to know what I’m looking for in the publication or what the most common cause for rejection is these days? Want to know about Mastodon or tennis? Reply with your questions; I’ll address as many as possible in next week’s issue.
This is perhaps a little incendiary, but the only real threat I see with AI is to people who churn out soulless content, as opposed to quality writing. Until AI becomes self-aware (if that's even possible), it is incapable of producing great writing. ChatGPT and the like aren't even true AI--they're just clever implementations of textual prediction backed by enormous datasets.
We're about to get buried in content, most of it garbage and factual inaccurate. I'm going the opposite way with All the Fanfare: less articles but each one is meaty and human. I think this is almost the only way writers can distinguish themselves from the noise.
That's an encouraging post. I've always preferred to write rather than create content. It is stunning to me that two or three months ago we weren't even thinking about losing our jobs to AI (at least I wasn't). What scares me is that so many people salivate over trash articles that might as well have been written by a robot already. Human beings are easily programmed. We need a greater emphasis on critical thinking in our country.