Content Ex Machina: What Does AI Mean for the Future of Content Writing?

Photo by Brett Jodan, Unsplash

By Danny, 3 months ago (3 min read)

Remember the days when Skynet was nothing more than a product of dystopian fiction? Well, fast-forward to 35 years after The Terminator’s box office release and, in a society that has granted a robot official citizenship and is striving to digitise the human memory, artificial intelligence is already very much integrated into modern society. For the time being, we’re probably safe from a Schwarzenegger-led robot revolution, but it’s impossible to ignore the fact that AI is continuing to develop at a rapid rate.

One of the primary forms of development in recent years has been AI’s ability to understand spoken and written language and, in turn, construct an intelligible and comprehensible response. But what does this mean for the future of content writing?

With The Press Association already able to produce 30,000 AI-written local news stories per month, how far are we from living in a world that values the auto-generated word over its written counterpart? Let’s take a closer look…

How does AI work?

AI utilises a software process known as natural language generation (NLG) to construct a written narrative drawn from a library of data. By analysing and categorising this data, it can then begin to understand the subtle nuances in language, tonality and form, using this to inform the production of a variety of natural content styles, from social media posts to financial reports.

Why is this important?

Mainstream media outlets such as The New York Times and Yahoo! Sports are already utilising AI to generate content, but what is it that makes this so appealing?

From a business perspective, perhaps one of the primary appeals is the efficiency of artificial intelligence. Whereas humans will spend a substantial amount of time creating a piece of high-quality content, AI can now produce the same in minutes, and with fewer mistakes – meaning a more efficient output overall, all to the overall benefit of a business’s profitability.

On a similar note, profitability can be maximised further still by investing in AI-generated content, as it increases your workload while simultaneously reducing your workforce – meaning fewer wages to pay come the end of the month.

In the context of content marketing, perhaps the greatest appeal of AI-produced content is the level of quality that’s achievable in the context of this greater efficiency. While many professional content marketers have spent years perfecting their craft, developing their ability to naturally integrate keywords and links while targeting specific queries and audiences, AI can learn the same in minutes – and potentially with better success rates.

This is because AI software is able to detect and decode search algorithms and associated ranking factors far better than any human being ever could – deconstructing the formula for a top-ranking page to understand how best to appeal to search engines.

The problems

While the future may sound bleak for content writers, worry not – your jobs aren’t at risk just yet. AI content is still in its relatively early stages and, as such, there are still various glitches that still need ironing out.

Perhaps the biggest trump cards humans hold over AI right now are creativity and ingenuity. The creation of content through an automated medium is, at its very foundation, formulaic and mathematical – and any writer worth their salt will tell you that these qualities have very little place in the production of high-quality creative content.

Perhaps this is best encapsulated – although admittedly with a lack of eloquence – by Robin Williams’ Mr Keating in Dead Poet’s Society – where he declares Dr Pritchar’s formulaic and mathematical deconstructions of poetry as ‘excrement’. While this is perhaps more relevant to Shakespeare and Yeats than it is your latest search-optimised blog post, the point remains the same: the lack of human emotion and influence significantly impacts how any reader connects with a piece of content, regardless of its form.

While the future is undoubtedly increasingly digital, the sheer integrity of the written and spoken word means human production will always have a place in content creation, regardless of its form. However, from epic tragedies to press releases, it’s clear that AI is going to become an increasingly prominent author in the contemporary worlds of digital marketing and, more generally, literature and linguistics. Let’s just hope the machines focus more on the writing, and less on the world domination.

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