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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Not a light, a train!

3 Jul 2024

Yesterday I wrote about how the news industry seems to have totally lost its way and is struggling to survive in the age of the internet and social media.

Well guess what?

It's about to get a whole lot worse, especially here in New Zealand.

I'm talking about the government deciding to force Google and Facebook to pay for the news they scrape from news websites and then link to.

On the face of it, if you're new to the internet, it sounds fair doesn't it? Google and Facebook are using headlines and linking to stories on other news websites so surely they should pay for that privilege.

BZZZZT... wrong answer.

The problem is that the news media seems to think that the money they get from the the big players in the online world will save their bacon. It won't, it'll actually hasten their demise!

"How can that be?" you ask.

Well it's simple...

Google and Meta are both heavily investing in AI systems and Large Language Models (LLMs) in particular.

Once they sign a deal that gives them access to news sites in return for a trifling amount of money, you can absolutely be sure of their next step.

Watch for both companies to create their own news pages that contan AI-generated news reports that are created from the content they've now paid for access to.

Instead of Google and Meta carrying a headline plus a paragraph or two and a link to the story on the publisher's website, *all* the information will be kept on the pages of these internet giants. It won't be copyright infringement -- because you can't copyright facts and the AI will ensure you're not reading a word-for-word copy but a completely rewritten story that contains the same facts expressed in different terms.

Once this happens, those news sites who sold their souls to the devil for a small handful of silver will be stuffed. The traffic to their pages will dry up super-quick and their ad revenues will plummet.

Google and Meta have an intimate knowledge of every user's preferences, interests, biases and likes. They'll use this information (that the news sites don't have) to create a unique and perfectly targeted news page for each and every one of their users. There will be no more efficient way to read the news than via these pages that Google and Meta create.

If only the government and these news sites could see that what they think is the light at the end of the tunnel is actuall the Google/Meta train of destruction bearing down on them at breakneck speed.

Google and Meta aren't investing billions in AI just for fun... they have already mapped out their long-term strategies and I believe that "control and ownership" of the news market is high on the list of priorities. AI will give them all the tools they need to do this.

What happens when the traditional news publishers start to go bankrupt?

I suspect these large social media companies may buy some of them at cents on the dollar or they'll simply dispense with traditional sources altogether and rely on the postings made by their own users to provide the news they publish.

To see how effective this might be -- there was an altercation here in Tokoroa a few days ago, right smack in the front of town. A couple of gangs faced-off and there were baseball bats and all manner of weapons involved. Police and ambulances rolled up and carted people away.

Within minutes it was all over the local Facebook page for the town and most people knew about it.

Now, several days later, I can only find a single report in the mainstream media and it's pretty lacking in detail.

It's very clear that social media as gazzumped traditional media again -- and the likes of Google and Meta know that this is the way forward. They'll pay mainstream media if the government demands it... but only until that media totally collapses and ceases to exist.

Of course I do have a solution... but once again I've run out of room in today's column.

Carpe Diem folks!

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