18/05/2023 Matt Horne

The Impact Of Generative AI On Content Marketing

Thoughts from a pessimistic optimist

A man writing content on a laptop while a bin fire rages behind him

The explosion of generative AI into the news cycle, spearheaded by Chat GPT, has been phenomenal. So is the pace of change in the technology. The world is going crazy for AI and the content marketing machine is pumping out 1000s of think pieces to jump on the trend with a multitude of hot takes.

So guess what, here’s another bit of content talking about AI. But more specifically, how generative AI will impact content marketing and the people working in it, for the short, medium and long term.

A hot take grounded in reality

Now don’t get me wrong, I love new toys. Particular new tech and all the cool stuff it can unlock (here’s looking at ya Steam Deck 😍). But I’ve been around the internet long enough to know eventually all cool new things come back to haunt us:

The list goes on. But to be fair, I’ve also been round long enough to see the internet’s hot new things absolutely transform the world for good. Like 15 year old Matt being able to play Command and Conquer skirmishes with people around the world as I had no friends at home.

Although I guess online gaming has it’s own issues too.

What I’m trying to say is, I’m writing this as a pessimistic optimist. Something deep down in me is sceptical about the end result from generative AI like ChatGPT, but also really hopeful that things turn out all good in the end.

With that all on the table, here’s what I think the impacts of generative AI will be on content marketing. And by content marketing, I mean the art of creating content to drive brand awareness and web traffic to owned properties.

The short term impact

I see the short term impact being most significant for two types of people:

  • the lazy content marketer
  • the smart content marketer

The impact on lazy content marketers

This is going to be the halcyon days for you my friend. Rejoice as you no longer have to physically churn out content to appease the SEO gods. A large language model can do it all for you.

A robot looks at a man lazing on a couch. The man looks squished and disjointed as this is an AI generated image

This is what AI thinks “a lazy person using ai to do their job – photorealistic” looks like

At nearly zero cost, you can scale your content operation significantly. You can get rid of all your staff and just automate the whole content process. Sure some of the content will miss the mark, but this is a numbers game. Smash that content out and get as much search traffic as possible.

End results: ad revenue up, overall production costs significantly reduced.

I mean to be fair, this has been slowly burning away for a few years. It’s just been rocket boosted by GPT technology being available to the general public.

The impact on smart content marketers

What AI thinks “a smart content marketer – photorealistic” looks like

You’re going to have time saved and your research efforts boosted. Generative AI is here to help spark your creativity and clear that writer’s block.

Got a topic you want to write about but not sure where to start? Let the AI pull together some key talking points for you to offer your own insight on.

Want to reshape your existing work for a different audience? Let the AI take a look and suggest different phrasing or structures to help get your original ideas across in new ways.

Or why not us AI to help you fill the content gaps? Ask a chatbot to write a blog on the Top 10/20/30 things to know about a topic then see what hasn’t been included – and there’s your next piece of content idea.

The medium impact

This is where things start to get a bit less sunny, based on the assumption that a key goal of content marketing is driving web traffic to your owned property.

A change to search and SEO as we know it

Search is changing. No longer will it be about providing links to the information you’re looking for. It’ll be about providing contextual, conversational results to keep users on the search tool.

You’ve had structured snippets stealing potential traffic already, and Bing are starting to push conversational search. Google have hinted at what’s to come as Bard is integrated in to other properties. It comes down to search becoming the assistant, parsing all the data on the internet in to the most helpful answer to your search query.

And then the ads will come in to the conversations, protecting Google’s revenue while profiting off the content on other sites.

Meanwhile, all those content farms churning out AI generated content to get traffic eye balls on display ads will see a dramatic decrease in users. Which will mean less advertising revenue. Which will mean they will shut down.

A beigeing of content

Content will start to eat itself. The language models will be devouring more and more web content. But more and more of that web content will have been written by language models. Which will have been written by older language models with less accuracy on older content from years before.

We’ll end up with a world of content resembling a 6th generation VHS copy of a tv show aired 30 years ago – including all the inherent biases of the time magnified.

For the smart content marketer though, the fact they’re still writing their own content will be a mark of differentiation. Like organic food labels it’ll make people stand up and take notice, not to mention pay a premium price. “Look over here, there’s an actual thought from a real human like me. That deserves my attention.”

If only the search engines would send traffic to the sites they’re writing for.

Generative stock site search

One thing that is both cool but soul destroying will be the inevitable integration of generative AI in to stock library searches.

Imagine a stock library search where if there was no content to match your request, it just made the image or video for you? Adobe will no doubt be first thanks to Sensei.

A small toy dinosaur with it's feet in green sports socks. On a pink sparkly lake and background

Stock sites will finally be able to provide “a dinosaur on a pair of green socks in a glittery pink lake”

Fantastic for content creators who don’t work in the visual field. Job stealingly terrifying for those that rely on selling their work as stock.

Carbon neutral not

Something that’s not currently a big topic for generative AI discussions is the shear amount of processing power required to feed it. Epic data centres, and the associated cooling systems will need power. Lots of it.

This in turn will need some form of power generation. Maybe the AI will have found a way to unlock fission and power is cheap, plentiful and clean. Or maybe we just end up scrapping carbon neutral pledges cause they get in the way of having a tool that can make any image we can think of.

Pivot to video is complete

Finally, Zucks can say he got something right. Runway, Dall E and Midjourney will all have perfected the art of generative video. Text to video is no longer limited to haunting nightmarish beer adverts.

You will be able to finally get that screenplay you’ve been writing for 10 years made. And not just made by your mates, with real Hollywood actors. Or maybe just get the production values of your training video in Synthesia boosted.

Either way, the dream of all content being video, which is 100% definitely what the audience wants, will come true. If you can write it, you can make a video of it with no skill needed.

The long term impact

And this is where I get full on dooms day. It goes one of two ways:

The end of work

Technology stops being generative (as in based on past knowledge) and becomes creative (making new thoughts and ideas). All humans are out of a job. And I can go back to playing Command and Conquer all day. Till the food runs out at least.

The end of technology

Technology gets so power hungry there’s not enough energy in the world to help keep it going. All recent developments become useless and we end up back in the 90s playing Command and Conquer, all day on a 56k modem while only having CDs and 5 TV channels for comfort.

Actually, that doesn’t sound too bad.

The end?

The impacts of this technology will truly be game changing.

I don’t know how quick the short, medium and long term will happen. Things seem to be moving really fast at the moment. Will they just get faster or will we hit a wall and it take another 50 years to get past that?

One thing is for sure. How it all pans out is down to us. Used responsibly generative AI could be a huge benefit to content marketing and overall content creation. Used erroneously it could lead to a lot of people losing their jobs and the world drowning in very bland repetitive content.

It’s going to be interesting to see which way it all goes. Either way, maybe I’ll see you in the Tiberium fields.

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Matt Horne

Freelance digital marketing and social media consultant dedicated to making your internet awesome.