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There is a growing market for content, and accordingly, a growing range of sources for such valuable offerings. Although the implications of such growth are interesting and meaningful for consumers, it also is changing the game for a lot of small, medium, and even large firms in their own efforts to engage in effective marketing.

In particular, as nearly every firm seeks to develop personalized, targeted messages and information to share with potential buyers, a new service industry is providing them with relevant content, by leveraging advance technologies and AI-derived insights. Automated text generators have become quite sophisticated, such that for most readers, it is difficult to distinguish human- from machine-written articles, blog posts, and reviews—and even romance novels. Companies thus can use these automated tools to produce content, quickly, inexpensively, and effectively.

For example, companies seeking to enhance their search engine optimization, such that online searchers are more likely to come across links to their sites, might pay to have a robot generate an article about a relevant topic, with embedded links to their sales site. Imagine that you want to figure out how to take a tax deduction for some of your education expenses, so you do a quick search with some relevant keywords. An accountancy that has hired a bot to write up an informative article about that very topic is likely to attract your attention. If the article is really good, it might even be enough to get you to click on an embedded link that takes you to the accountancy’s site for a quote to do your taxes for you.

The tech capabilities are not limited to text; other AI-enabled service providers generate videos and audio content for companies hoping to reach consumers through such channels. Thus a video that pops up in social media feeds might have been generated in conjunction with an algorithm that already knows what each user seeks out when browsing. One company competing in this domain specializes in cloning efforts, such that it creates convincing video versions of people reciting lines that they never said in reality. Similar to deepfake applications, such developments raise some questionable ethical conundrums—just ask Keanu Reeves, who is the subject of an entire, dedicated TikTok page that only posts deepfake videos of him engaging in random and strange behaviors.

But overall, automating content creation, supported by vast data analysis capabilities for targeting and personalization (better than any human author could manage), implies that the volume of content available will continue to grow in leaps and bounds. One estimate predicts that by about 2025, 90 percent of all digital content will be generated automatically—maybe even these abstracts someday.

Discussion Questions

  1. How can companies best leverage auto-generated text provided by service firms to reach their own customers?
  2. Can you tell the difference between auto-generated and human-written text? Are you sure?

Sources: Christopher Mims, “Can You Tell Whether this Headline Was Written by a Robot?” The Wall Street Journal, November 12, 2022; Mikael Thalen, “Don’t Fall for this Keanu Reeves Deepfake on TikTok Like Millions of Others Already Have,” Daily Dot, September 23, 2022