ChatGPT has killed content, and that’s a good thing

Perhaps it’s the circles I move in… it seems no matter what I do online, there’s going to be an email or an article or a social media post about ChatGPT. There’s no doubt in my mind that the attention this bit of software is getting is deserved. ChatGPT is the understandable, usable face of something much bigger, the quiet revolution that machine learning and artificial intelligence have been creating while we were all thinking about something else (cat videos, for instance). And what ChatGPT does is demonstrate that the world of “content” is dead. That’s if you use the word “content” in the way that marketers and brands and companies and tech giants do: words or pictures or videos which are generated in order to serve the ends of our capitalist economies.
Why content has been dethroned
If ChatGPT can magisterially survey all the other content out there, and synthesise 500 words that would pass muster for a corporate blog, then the people who have been doing that up until now are out of a job. I know that because I’ve done an experiment. Tasked with writing an article in a hurry for AltoPartners, a client for whom I write corporate articles, I thought I’d see what the chat thing could do. With their permission to run the experiment, I asked ChatGPT to write a 500-word article on the topic at hand. In less than a minute, I had 500 correctly spelled and grammatically correct words, coherently laying out the issues, and offering a set of suggestions as to how the issue could be handled. We could have put that on the client website as is. But we didn’t – because it was boring, repetitive and derivative. Just like 90% of the “content” we all survey every day. So, I took some of ChatGPT’s “thinking”, did my own research and thinking and came up with something better. Which we did put on the website.
Real writing for real people
What this means, people, is that the days of churning out “content” based on internet “research” are over (as, I suspect, are the days of writing news stories based on what people said on Twitter). ChatGPT and its like, and the better iterations that are no doubt on the way, are going to do that work far better than any human could. And if journalist and trainer Adam Tinworth is correct, there’s going to be a sea change in SEO as well. He says this could well be one of those moments where something changes fundamentally. He writes:
“In the 11 years I’ve been training and consulting on SEO, there’s only been one ‘changes everything’ shift, which was the move from keywords to intent. That was subtle enough that few people noticed. This, though, opens the possibility of a whole new paradigm of search, something that’s more akin to a Star Trek character conversing with the computer than what we do now.”
Which means that human content creators are going to have to up their game. No more keyword optimisation. No more stealing other people’s copy and passing it off as research. No more bland, boring corporate content. Writer, journalists, bloggers… They’re all going to have to do proper research (perhaps even read the academic papers on the subject). They’ll need to interview real people. They’re going to have to bring their whole selves to the project, using their life experience to enrich their writing. They are going to have to offer readers a real connection to real issues or thinking. Which is why I don’t think we should be talking about ChatGPT at all. We should be starting to think and write and talk about what we’d actually like to be seeing on the Internet. Because we humans alone have the power to tell the stories that other humans want to hear. Main picture: Giulia May, Unsplash Contact me if you would like to chat about how I can help with all your communication needs (writing, editing, coaching and training, social media). I also help small businesses and organisations with project and operational management. I write a post every week, some about my professional life and work, and some about broader issues. You can get either of those, or both, in your email, by subscribing here.

Writers – how to tell the good from the bad

You have a product to promote, or a report to produce, and you need a writer.

But how do you tell if a writer is any good, and whether they will do what you need them to do?

Like editing and training, writing is a credence good: something with qualities that cannot be observed by the consumer after purchase, making it difficult to assess its utility. And if you need the services of a writer (rather than being able to do it yourself), you may not be best placed to assess the quality of what you pay for.
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Editors – how to tell the good from the bad

You know the feeling. You took the car to the mechanic, they said they fixed that odd knocking noise, then said a lot of incomprehensible things and took a load of money. But, as you drive away, there’s that nagging feeling: did they really do what they said? The knocking noise is gone but should it really have cost all that?

People have this feeling because they have just purchased a credence good – something with qualities that cannot be observed by the consumer after purchase, making it difficult to assess its utility.

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