23 May 2024

Deal between OpenAI and News Corp signifies a media divide on attitudes to AI

Written by Joe Jordan, Junior Account Manager at Spreckley

OpenAI has signed a deal with media conglomerate News Corp that will allow the ChatGPT developer to access current and archived content from publications including the Wall Street Journal, the Sunday Times and the New York Post.

Believed to be worth over $250 million across a five-year period, this is the latest agreement between OpenAI and a publishing heavyweight following similar deals with the Financial Times and Axel Springer, the parent company of Business Insider and Politico.

However, other attempts to strike a bargain have been met with resistance. Talks with the New York Times stalled amid concerns about ‘AI hallucinations – where false information is wrongly attributed to a source – damaging the outlet’s reputation. An uncertain position from OpenAI on guardrails around AI products also contributed to the stalemate.

Instead of putting pen to paper, the NYT fought back with a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit, claiming AI chatbots are benefiting free of charge from heavy investment in journalism to build a substitutive product.

Now that an array of media titans have made clear their stance on AI development, the battle lines have been drawn.

Better source material, better tech?

An AI model is only as good as the data it’s founded on – or so the saying goes. Chatbots such as ChatGPT pride themselves on responding to the wackiest and wildest queries users can conjure up. Curating a controlled and trusted bank of internal data, broad enough to cover the scope of material that could be input, is an impossible task.

As a result, the bulk of public AI tools trawl masses of information on external sites to formulate responses, calling into question their validity as some of these sources can’t be trusted.

If models are being trained by reputable authorities such as the Financial Times, surely this will equate to more dependable AI solutions? From OpenAI’s perspective, building these partnerships could hold the key to establishing genuine credibility for their offerings.

Is the free press digging its own grave?

It’s no secret that media outlets globally are facing an uphill battle to secure their long-term future. News Corp announced plans earlier this year to cut 5% of its global workforce in an effort to manage costs, with other outlets set to follow suit as advertising revenues dwindle.

Siding with AI developers could be perceived as an attempt to turn a potential threat into an advantageous situation – a cash cow that will provide a steady income stream for years to come.

What’s ironic is that articles that journalists have devoted time and effort into creating could support the evolution of the technology that eventually puts them out of a job.

In its copyright infringement lawsuit the NYT recognised this, citing ChatGPT’s potential to become a genuine competitor. The news outlet’s choice to go on the offensive could contribute to the protection of journalistic integrity, prioritising bespoke, unique and hand-written content rather than laying the groundwork for a future of artificially generated news.

This also adds fuel to the fire when it comes to media literacy – there’s an argument that AI chatbots should add citations so that people know where outputs have come from. Users should be made aware if information has come from publications with historical political loyalties, as without this visibility it makes it more difficult to see how responses could be biased.

What’s the impact on PRs?

Journalism and PR are professions that are intrinsically linked and any significant changes in either industry are sure to have a direct impact on the adjacent sector. While we can’t expect a revolution overnight, increased AI deployment will certainly affect how PRs interact with the press and should be a consideration moving forward.

And for the AI tools themselves? More accurate and reliable technology that draws on credible sources is sure to see an uptake in use, so PRs should be prepared for this.