How AI is changing search monetization


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Search engines, AI and monetization in the new era

Black Hat 2023: How AI is changing search monetization

The opening speech at Black hat 2023, unsurprisingly, was on the theme of AI. Specifically, the presentation discussed the implications of AI Large Language Models (LLMs) on the cybersecurity industry and the broader ecosystem. The presenter started the conversation by talking about the timeline of investments made by Google and Microsoft, the number is large, as you would expect; Microsoft alone has invested $13 billion so far.

In fact, this number took me off topic and I started to wonder why a company would spend $13 billion and, more importantly, why they are rushing to market when Many experts, governments and industry commentators are suggesting caution and slowing down societal adoption of AI.

AI causes content demonetization

There are many uses of AI; all this could be part of the reason. The presenter gave an example, which gives a very understandable view, of AI used in video conferencing, analyzing the video, audio and shared documents, and then being able to summarize the meeting in more detail than just transcription. Is this why you are investing $13 billion, or is this a game to capture the future search market? Will the word Google cease to be a verb?

While the company may or may not have a problem with AI ethics, I’m curious if the adoption of AI in search poses a problem that demonetizes the Internet for many content providers.

Traditional search engines, such as Bing and Google, index content and use algorithms to determine and deliver what they believe to be the most relevant results in the search engine results page (SERP), and in doing so , show some sponsored ads at the top. . If you are a content producer and own a website today, your monetization model likely includes advertising, or content is protected only for subscribers or through a paywall. Either way, you’ll likely depend, at least in part, on traffic generated through search, clicking a link in the SERP, and navigating directly to content on your website.

Related: Top 5 search engines for internet-connected devices and services

What happens when a large language model (LLM) is tasked with providing the answer to a search query that bypasses the need for the SERP? The model has at its disposal all the content accessible to the search engine, creating the data to train the LLM so that it can generate a human response to the query. So we end up with a single answer to the query that may have been formulated using many different content sites, with no attribution for the content used to form the answer, and no ability for the content creator to monetize the creation. and hosting of the content.

Is it simply less about a race for technology and more about how to capture market share for research and monetize? Microsoft is one of the largest search engine providers; with most of the market share still belonging to Google. Any impact on a market valued at $225 billion per year is significant, which may explain the investment in AI LLMs. Replacing the familiar list of search results with a single answer means that the person creating the query never leaves that new “SERP” page, retaining all traffic for the search engine provider to monetize directly through advertisements. etc.

An already pressing problem

We’ve seen similar implications before: for example, news content is sometimes displayed directly in SERPs or on social media pages; While attribution to the content source is displayed, the person generating the query does not need to visit the news site and therefore no advertising or paid traffic is generated. The Canadian government was a pioneer legislation, Bill C-18, protect creators of news content; this forces a negotiation between the platform using the content and the creator to remunerate them, to monetize the content they have created.

Expand this issue to all content and remove attribution. This could cause many content providers, such as sites offering unique niche content, to stop providing good quality information due to a lack of financial means. Ten years later, if the LLM bases its answers on the content available at the time and the content providers have stopped providing relevant and updated content, the result will become less reliable than it is today ‘today.

Cybersecurity on the chopping block?

Why is this important for cybersecurity? A lack of funding can cause website owners to stop updating their software or paying to secure their sites, a lack of trust can be created when query results generate incorrect information, and cybercriminals can begin to publish their own content to thwart the LLM. are a lot. It is important in this transition to take into account the fate of content creators so that the Internet remains a source of income, and therefore a source of factual and accurate information.

Before you leave: Untrained staff and limited budgets leave 96% of businesses feeling “unprepared” for a cyberattack.

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