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Google’s AI Model Gemini Spurs Fresh Concerns Among Publishers

Google’s release of large language model Gemini this week has publishers troubled about its potential to further impact revenue dynamics in an industry already grappling with volatility.

In a press call with reporters, questions were raised about datasets used to train Gemini, with Google executives declining to share specific details, including whether any were licensed from third parties, according to TechCrunch. But that’s just one of several questions industry execs have.

“I’m not aware of any publishers being approached about using their content for this,” said Danielle Coffey, president and CEO of nonprofit trade association News/Media Alliance. “I’m curious whether [Google] will allow news publishers the ability to monetize their content through traffic, which in reality is crumbs anyway because of its ad-tech tax, or if Google will continue to take all the revenue.”

Already starved news publishers have argued over the past year about the impact of generative artificial intelligence tools on search, with concerns mounting that these tools could affect up to 66% of their traffic and a huge chunk of revenue.

Identifying the exact data fed into AI models is nearly impossible, given that many entities have not publicly disclosed the specifics of their data sources. However, in order to effectively train and power these products, tech companies need precise, contemporaneous data—which news publishers are uniquely positioned to produce. In October, News/Media Alliance published research indicating that developers prioritize articles over generic online content for training AI tools.

“If Bard answers all questions with perfect efficiency, in an extreme scenario, it could put publishers completely out of business,” said Myles Younger, head of innovation and insights at digital education provider U of Digital. “Ultimately, this would make the web much less useful, and that would hurt Google.”

Publishers’ dilemma

Publishers raised concerns after Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced plans during the press call to integrate Gemini into Google’s search engine, ad products and Chrome browser sometime next year.

“If that’s the case, I don’t foresee publishers opting out,” said Coffey. “There’s not really a choice whether to be included in this new product.”

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