Microsoft Assures Content Publishers on AI-Based Search

Microsoft acknowledged that its emerging AI-based Bing search could affect content publisher revenue models, but also suggested that it is willing to talk terms.

That notion seems to be the gist of a Wednesday announcement by Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president and consumer chief marketing officer at Microsoft. The unstated background context is publisher grumblings that people using AI-based search will no longer go to content sources, as they will get a good enough summary from search integrated with AI technology.

Mehdi, though, stated that Microsoft wants to "drive more traffic to publishers in this new world of search."

Microsoft's AI-powered Bing, currently at the preview stage, already includes "citations within the body of the chat answers that are linked to sources." The search results also include "learn more" links that are located below the AI chats, Mehdi indicated.

Other ideas being considered by Microsoft to acknowledge publisher content scraped by its AI technologies include:

  • Links to publisher content that will display more links when a user hovers over it.
  • "Rich captions" pointing to Microsoft Start licensed content, which could appear next to chat answers.
  • "Placing ads in the chat experience to share the ad revenue with partners whose content contributed to the chat response."

The latter exploratory experience of adding ads to Bing search results has already occurred for some users of the AI-based Bing search preview, this TechCrunch article claimed.

Microsoft Start may be an unfamiliar phrase, but it's Microsoft's content feed that's used by "more than 4,500 news and entertainment brands." Microsoft Start is available as mobile apps, but it's also part of the Windows desktop as the "News and Interests" experience on the Windows 10 taskbar and the "Widgets experience" in Windows 11, according to this 2021 Microsoft Start description.

Publisher Grumblings
Mehdi's announcement arrived one day before this New York Times article, which cited newspaper publisher forebodings about how AI-powered search would affect bottom-line revenue models.

While search was generally acknowledged as having contributed to driving site traffic in the past, that relationship could change with AI-powered search. Some media companies, such as News Corp., owner of the Wall Street Journal, think publishers should be paid by the tech companies when their AI chatbots are using their published content.

Newsrooms were already decimated by the switch to online content, which affected publisher print revenues. Search result scrapes, though, had still directed readers back to content provider sites. That circumstance may change with AI-based searches.

Legislative Efforts
Concerns about the potential effects of AI-powered search on content publishers are already getting reflected in U.S. legislative efforts.

The "Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2022," introduced last year in March, would permit "digital journalism providers to collectively negotiate with large online platforms" on content use, which would be exempted from federal antitrust laws, according to the Act's description.

California has its own legislative version, called "The California Journalism Competition and Preservation Act," which would "direct digital advertising giants to pay news outlets a 'journalism usage fee' when they sell advertising alongside news content," according to an account by the Los Angeles Times.

Public advocacy group Free Press suggested last year that a better solution than the "Journalism Competition and Preservation Act," which possibly favors big media players over smaller ones, would be to create a public fund based on taxing the online advertising sector. The funds could then be distributed to support local journalism.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


comments powered by Disqus

Subscribe on YouTube