Media conglomerate G/O Media is hellbent on using AI to generate a flood of content that, so far, has been riddled with errors — and it's now telling staff that they shouldn't worry about all the negative press its publications have been getting as a result.
As The Wrap reports, the company's editorial director Merrill Brown is well aware of the ongoing trash fire, telling staff in an internal note that the company is committed to AI articles despite what he euphemistically termed "external commentary."
"All of us working on these initiatives are quite aware of the vast amount of feedback we received after the AI material was published in July," he wrote, adding that such "chatter" should be "dismissed."
G/O, which owns a number of media staples including Quartz, The AV Club, Jalopnik, and Gizmodo, has received a substantial amount of criticism for its fraught rollout of AI-generated content over the last several months.
For instance, a so-called "Chronological List of Star Wars Movies & TV Shows," published last month, was so terribly written and riddled with factual mistakes that it drew the open fury of Gizmodo staffers, who argued that AI content devalues their work and undermines their and their brand's credibility.
But now G/O is doubling down on its AI-generated content experiment by publishing a new flood of bot-created listicles.
An AV Club article about recent movie releases credited to "The AV Club Bot" claims to be "based on data from IMDb," according to an editorial note: "Text was compiled by an AI engine that was then reviewed and edited by the editorial staff."
Unsurprisingly, the content is nothing more than search engine fodder that adds very little in the way of discussion about upcoming movie releases. It's a lifeless chronological list of blockbusters that barely even tells readers what the movies are about.
"A kaleidoscopic reincarnation romance about two souls who meet in the afterlife and take turns living lives of their choice," reads one expectedly rote movie description. "Starring Michael Winslow, Martin Klebba, Lloyd Kaufman, and Mariah Salazar as Estelle."
"A teenager finds an alien beetle that grants him superpowered armor," reads a summary of "Blue Beetle" that even fails to point out that it's a DC Comics flick.
In short, it's a great example of bot-generated content that appears to be largely written for the scanning eyes of search engines, with the ultimate goal of goading unsuspecting readers into clicking the link and viewing ads.
"G/O Media has published another round of AI-generated articles today, against the wishes of the union," the union representing G/O Media and The Onion staff wrote in a Sunday statement."As a reminder, if you see 'bot' in a byline, don’t click the blog."
The union went on to list all of the articles in question, including a listicle of NC-17 movies that were released since 2000 and a Jalopnik slideshow of pictures that was presented with pretty much no commentary whatsoever.
"Work on this slideshow was performed by an AI engine," a brief description of the latter reads, the only written text to appear across 33 slides.
Unsurprisingly, the new deluge of ill-conceived filler was met with plenty of criticism.
"Sickening," writer Tammy Golden tweeted in response to the AV Club article, accusing G/O Media of "becoming pure corporate grossness."
Other users called the content "grotesque."
"G/O media driving off a cliff at 2.5 mph," quipped another user.
Despite the bad press, the move seems to be paying off — from a cynical traffic perspective, anyway — with the shoddy "Star Wars" article ranking in Google search results, even though it still contains errors and an egregious typo.
"It is absolutely a thing we want to do more of," Brown wrote in an internal memo obtained by Vox last month, referring to AI-produced stories.
"I think it would be irresponsible to not be testing it," G/O Media CEO Jim Spanfeller told the publication at the time.
Yet G/O journalists are adamant that "this is a not-so-veiled attempt to replace real journalism with machine-generated content," as one writer told Vox.
And it's not just G/O — the shift towards drab, bot-generated content is an industry-wide phenomenon.
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