CNET owner Red Ventures is preparing to kickstart its AI engine in a major way.
In an all-hands meeting on Thursday, Red Ventures CEO Ric Elias laid out an expansive plan for the publisher's AI-driven future, audio obtained by Futurism has revealed.
Based on the meeting, it seems that AI-generated content is no longer just a discreet experiment. It sounds like Red Ventures is now all in — moving forward, generative AI will be central to the publisher's business model.
"Today is day one of AI in our company," Elias told Red Ventures staffers. "Today is the day that we will look back on, hopefully five to ten years from now, and realize that this was not just an opportunity for us to open up a new revenue source or our new business source, but to truly reinvent everything we do as a company."
"AI will change everything," the CEO added, "and I believe, for the most part, in a good way."
The all-hands meeting notably took place on the same day that Futurism reported that finance site Bankrate — a CNET sister site that, like CNET, had also been caught publishing error-ridden AI content earlier this year — had quietly restarted its AI content machine. And though that new content did include a lengthy AI disclosure, and said disclosure promised that a human editor had fact-checked the AI-spun content, the text, once again, was riddled with factual errors (Bankrate deleted the story after we reached out with questions.)
Elias' intended AI overhaul also comes just weeks after CNET workers moved to unionize, pointing to "automated technology" that "threatens our jobs and reputations."
"We're joining a lot of others in the media," a union representative told us at the time, "who are looking into how to address AI in relation to plagiarism, liability and the impact to the workforce."
Throughout the meeting, Elias and others emphasized an argument for AI's integration that's becoming a familiar refrain: productivity. Leaders at the likes of BuzzFeed and Insider — Nich Carlson, Insider's editor-in-chief, notably referred to tools like ChatGPT as the "new bicycle of the mind," in reference to Steve Jobs' famous quote about iPhones — have held a similar productivity line, as did G/O Media Group when it announced its own move to AI this week. As the logic generally stands, AI systems can quickly aggregate information and take away first-draft pressure; using them, then, must mean that work goes faster, which means more content is produced. Ultimately, the reasoning seems to go, more reader eyeballs are harvested.
"I think our brands, I think our editorial, I think our writing is going to be at a premium," Elias told staffers. "We're not just writing content to write content. We're writing content because we stand for something, we're trying to help consumers in certain journeys... editorial is really very much part of what makes us unique."
"That said," he added, "we're going to use tools to make our editors and our writers more productive."
But to that end, while productivity has certainly been a selling point for these tools, speed — as exemplified by Bankrate's most recent fumble — isn't always a good thing, especially considering how convincing AI-generated fabrications and phony citations can often be. There's also the fact that a lot of AI-generated content is objectively terrible, and in seeking AI-driven productivity goals, human-produced work is often — and perhaps inherently — plagiarized in the process.
Editorial content, however, isn't Red Ventures' only focus. Similarly to efforts at BuzzFeed, where CEO and brain genius Jonah Peretti recently laid out a somewhat alarming vision for AI-generated advertising hyper-personalized to users based on their own data, Red Ventures — which runs a massive commerce operation across its many consumer advice-focused websites — has another angle: data.
"We have a huge competitive advantage," said Elias. "We have our own proprietary datasets... we have the ability to go learn on our own assets, and then show up somewhere and say, 'here's the data model that has been proven to work. Here are digital journeys that have been perfected.'"
"Hyper-personalization really was at the core of what we have tried to do all along," he continued. "I think finally, that vision will be able to come together."
When we reached out, Red Ventures assured us that it's committed to "privacy," AI ethics, and doing things "the right way."
"The future is AI," Red Ventures told Futurism in an emailed statement. "We believe it will impact every facet of modern work and help humans do uniquely human work better. We're embracing it — we are upskilling our teams, we're exploring how it can help us better serve our customers and partners — but we're committed to doing it the right way."
"AI is not a one-size-fits-all approach," it continued. "How and where we use it will vary across our portfolio — but what will remain constant is our commitment to privacy and the ethical use of AI and always doing what's best for our employees, customers, and partners."
It's still unclear how AI initiatives will ultimately reshape Red Ventures' many brands. What is clear is that Red Ventures, regardless of its not-so-distant mistakes, and in spite of the pushback it's faced from its own staffers — who at the end of the day stand to lose the most — intends that transformation to happen.
"I believe that AI will unlock all the different constraints that we've had in our business models today," Elias told his staffers during Thursday's all-hands. "From here on out, we are not going to think about AI — we are going to become AI. Meaning the way we work, how we serve — either our customers or our clients — is going to be AI-driven."
More on Red Ventures: Bankrate Posts AI-Generated Article, Deletes It When We Point Out It's Full of Errors
Share This Article