Published on February 3, 2023
My Own Grave
This blog post just might do me in. But just because I’m writing about my own possible demise shouldn’t stop you from reading on and learning more about the future of writing and content creation powered by artificial intelligence (AI).
Quick quiz: was that hook written by me (a real human, though deeply flawed) or by an AI-powered plugin?
Obviously, no AI bot could produce such brilliance…right? No algorithm can match my witticisms and erudition (gulp)…or am I on the cusp of becoming a glassblower or a weaver, once-stable jobs basically eliminated by automation during the Industrial Revolution? Is blogging on the cusp of another kind of revolution that will largely sideline the thousands of us wordsmiths who don’t want real jobs with regular hours?
The Deal with AI
AI is a technology that’s based on the idea that computers can teach themselves how to master human endeavors once you program in the rules. The best example is IBM’s Deep Blue that in 1997 defeated a world champion chess player Gary Kasparov because it could evaluate 200 million moves per second.
But now AI allows computers not just to learn rules but to invent its own internal logic. In effect, that’s what is happening with AI-generated blogging software and apps. Instead of chess, the rules apply to grammar and SEO, and the best apps then can pull from millions pieces of written content to generate…well, that’s where the debate starts. What do these products do, and what do they do well?
The Deal with Blogging
Blogging is important because Google wants fresh content on the pages it ranks highly in its search engine, so fresh in fact that its “freshness algorithm” rewards sites that have up-to-date information. Just copying-and-pasting isn’t enough. Google knows when you plagiarize, and so your content better be unique. Ergo, blogging has become a key component in the dizzying game of page ranking.
But to create a blog requires four essential elements: getting an idea, doing the research, composing the post, and then broadcasting the content far and wide. We’ll examine how AI can assist in each of these phases.
A common lament in the blogging community has to do with that word again, freshness. It’s a daunting challenge to come up with original, compelling topics on a deadline. You know what you’ve written about, but what about your competitors and other industry leaders? How can you stay top of everything all at once?
Often, you can’t, and the horrors of staring at a blank screen set in. Here’s where AI might prove to be very helpful. Products like MarketMuse can break up the mental ice that has frozen your brain. It does so with an “automated content audit” that will provide you with “content opportunities” that should engage with your readers.
There is a free version that allows one user to submit 15 queries per month, and that could be enough to guide you through some fallow periods.
Research Grunt Work
Getting a good idea from AI seems like a winner. Letting AI then research that idea might not yet be something you’d want to off-load. Not yet anyway. Many products claim that they can deliver “research briefs” on any topic, but remember that Google and Wikipedia pretty much do this already.
The issue with AI research is that, like any scholarship, you need to vet the findings very carefully. AI might use outdated sources that if you just stick in your post without checking would make you seem like a fool. Aggregating tons of data without fact checking is a recipe for disaster. AI might save you a few steps of research, but it could create headaches as well. Research is probably still best left to us humans.
The Actual Writing
As for composing, putting words to paper, can AI match the peerless prose of our lauded bards? The short answer is yes. Apps like Jasper and many others can produce a document with words on them. These words will be on the topic you specified.
But that’s where we need to stop and assess. No one is touting that AI can replace humans who write for a living. What Jasper does promise is that it can get you 80% there with you doing the other 20%. These apps can check your grammar in real time, and with all the spellcheck blunders that happen, we’re aware of the pitfalls of AI taking over even spelling.
Going back to the glassblowing example. No one can dispute that machine-made glass has made it very cheap and easy to fix broken windows. Now glassblowing is a niche occupation reserved for artisans with a vision. Will AI make glassblowers of us bloggers?
No one is betting against AI, but there will be no AI-powered nurses. There must be a human connection, and perhaps writing falls into that category. AI can produce tons of words strung together, but it still takes a human to bring in a certain electricity. And Google will know whether you’re just sticking in machine-generated tripe.
There is no question, however, that when it comes to getting the maximum from your post as a social media post or email blast, AI is much better at it than any human. Because now we’re delving into the world of analytics, of amassing and understanding data at many levels, and machines can be made to do this with ruthless efficiency.
A product like Brightedge Insights can analyze your content to determine what’s working and what’s not, and predict what will work and what won’t, in ways it would take you hours to compile. As for social media, Hootsuit uses something called “social listening” to discern what you’re users are clicking on across social media platforms. This kind of analytics can drive where your content should go.
And So It Goes…
Writers probably will still have jobs in 10 years. Or not. The beauty and terror of AI is that no one knows what industries will be changed forever. Doctors, lawyers, architects, stock brokers: these “professional jobs” face serious challenges with the advent of AI. Writers aren’t exempt. You should use AI where it makes sense for you, but don’t bet the farm that an algorithm can do what I just did.
This post was last updated on February 7, 2023