Few words generate more controversy than artificial intelligence (AI). From wonderment and inspiration to fear and distrust, AI covers the full spectrum of emotions.
And like any breakthrough technology, there’s cause for a range of feelings. Reactions often depend on your perspective and, more specifically, how you see the technology impacting your future.
For example, Hollywood actors and writers went on strike over a number of issues, including pay and working conditions. But they’re also concerned with the use and generation of AI. And the Culinary Union in Las Vegas narrowly avoided a strike over AI. The union points to examples of AI-powered robots mixing drinks and a security robot patrolling a resort parking lot.
When it comes to AI, there’s certainly a lot to consider. Yet the strong conviction among business leaders is that AI will be an important part of the future.
According to strategy and consultant giant Accenture, 97% of executives said that “generative AI will be transformative to their company and industry.” What’s more, 95% of organizations surveyed are increasing their investments in data and AI. Seven in 10 held specific training programs in 2023 to prepare employees for the use of generative AI tools.
Where Is AI Used Now?
A Simplilearn tutorial by Avijeet Biswal, “AI Applications: Top 18 Artificial Intelligence Applications in 2023,” says common current uses of AI include:
- Virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa
- Recommendation systems used in e-commerce platforms
- Fraud detection in financial institutions
- Autonomous vehicles
- Natural language processing (NLP) for chatbots and customer service
- Image and facial recognition in security systems
- Medical diagnosis and healthcare systems
It’s clear the list is expanding into other areas that include magazines and all forms of journalism. In an August 2023 Intelligencer article, “How Will Artificial Intelligence Change the News Business?” author John Herrman says, “Bloomberg has been using AI tools to help streamline basic financial reporting for years, and wire services have been using story generators to write sports recaps and summarize earning reports for more than a decade.”
Magazine Industry Disruption Still Speculative
Despite the experimentation and limited applications that are occurring, the magazine industry is in a “what could be” state versus an all-out AI transformation. So, let’s take a look at four key areas that could be impacted the most, along with the pros and cons of AI integration:
- Automated Content Generation. AI tools and algorithms may generate new content and summaries of short- and long-form content. This could help publishers save money while keeping up with the quick pace of today’s news cycles. AI will also impact the proofreading and editing areas. AI-driven tools will not only identify grammatical errors but also add consistency to writing and could even improve styles. Savings in time and personnel could be considerable.
- Content Customization. There is a two-fold aspect to customization. The first is using AI-enabled tools to power recommendation systems for customizing reader content. The intent is to increase reader engagement and improve the reading experience. Publishers can also use the data to better understand audiences and more effectively market their magazines. The second aspect is allowing advertisers to apply the data to create more targeted advertising. The data can also help advertisers discover the best formats and ad placements. This not only increases advertising effectiveness but also improves the reader’s experience by minimizing irrelevant ads.
- Design and Formatting. According to Marcin Frąckiewicz in a TS2 Space article, “How AI is Shaping the Future of the Magazine Publishing Industry,” May 2023, “AI is also transforming the way magazines are designed and formatted.” AI-driven tools are now able to analyze data and learn from prior popular designs to create visually appealing layouts. Like all automation, this saves time in the design process. AI also helps ensure that each edition of the magazine is visually consistent and engaging for the reader.
- Predictive Analytics. Every publisher can benefit from being able to better forecast revenue and readership trends. AI-enabled predictive tools can help publishers analyze large amounts of data and make informed decisions about everything from content development to distribution.
What’s the Potential Downside?
Bo Sacks has been a veteran of the printing and publishing industry since 1970. He’s widely regarded as an innovator and has held directorships at prestigious companies such as McCall’s, Time Inc., New York Times Magazine Group, International Paper, Ziff-Davis, CMP and Bill Communications (VNU). While optimistic about the overall application of AI in the magazine industry, he also notes some potential negatives in his Jan. 20, 2023, article, “BoSacks Speaks Out: The Dark Side of AI for the Magazine Industry?” We share some of his insights here:
- AI could reduce the number of writers and editors, eliminating jobs and decreasing the number of voices in the industry.
- AI could automate the editing and proofreading process in a way that leads to a decrease in content quality. The AI-powered tools simply may not be able to detect errors and make changes in the same way as human beings.
- AI-powered recommendation systems could homogenize content. Their algorithms may select popular, profitable content over more niche or experimental content.
- AI could lead to issues around plagiarism and copyright infringement. Many insiders predict potential legal challenges and financial losses for publishers, authors and other stakeholders.
- AI might hinder the development of new writers, though it likely won’t provide the same level of feedback and mentoring as human editors. And with the potential elimination of many entry-level jobs, it’s fair to wonder how the next generation of publishing professionals will develop.
So, Is AI Your Magazine’s Friend or Foe?
Probably a little of each. No doubt it’s a powerful, disruptive technology. And we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg.
AI clearly has the potential to automate and improve efficiency across the publishing enterprise. Productivity will increase through the automation of many repetitive tasks. It also requires investment and training and will reduce or eliminate some positions.
But make no mistake, it’s a big thing that’s certain to impact your magazine publishing business and career.