AI Search: A New Frontier for Communicators

May 29, 2024
By Elisabeth Hershman
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Recently, hundreds of millions of people in the U.S. saw a new type of result when they searched for information via Google. The unveiling of "AI Overviews" at Google’s annual conference marked a pivotal shift in how information will be accessed and consumed going forward. AI search is expected to become the default approach sooner than most of us could have imagined.

AI Overviews are designed to provide synthesized summaries of topics directly within search results, effectively decreasing the necessity for users to visit the actual websites. Perplexity.ai, the AI-chatbot-powered research and conversational search engine that answers queries using natural language predictive text, is among the other AI-powered search tools that have recently joined the fray. Clearly, the momentum is building around this new era of search. This new reality sets up a domino effect of repercussions across the spectrum of the communications industry.

 

The Content Economy

For starters, AI search could mean a reduction in paid subscribers to web-published content and, in turn, reduced ad revenue thanks to a decline in traffic. We could also see a general decline in demand for content as readers are 1) Less inclined to click through and read an entire article and/or 2) Not presented with links to content in the same way they previously were. Content creators who rely on affiliate links as a revenue stream may have to rethink their approach.

If AI search engines prioritize certain vendors or platforms, or if they begin to facilitate purchases directly within the search interface, smaller e-commerce sites could struggle to compete against larger players, leading to a potential loss in sales and, ultimately, reduced market diversity.

 

Content Strategy

The role of AI in search queries simplifies the retrieval of information, making it more efficient but also more narrowly focused. This precision in delivering information requires communicators to rethink their content strategy. The traditional methods of optimizing content for search engines may no longer suffice as AI becomes adept at summarizing complex information. This necessitates a shift towards creating “findable” content that is not just SEO-friendly but also AI-compatible.

AI’s ability to synthesize and present information raises important ethical considerations as well. The accuracy and neutrality of AI-generated summaries could impact public opinion, especially when complex or controversial topics are oversimplified. To maintain trust with their audiences, communicators must advocate for transparency in AI processes and ensure that the AI systems they use adhere to ethical standards.

 

"The accuracy and neutrality of AI-generated summaries could impact public opinion, especially when complex or controversial topics are oversimplified."

 

Audience Insights

The introduction of AI in search also presents a strategic opportunity for communicators. By harnessing AI for analytics and audience insights, communicators can craft more targeted and impactful messages. AI’s predictive capabilities enable a better understanding of audience behaviors and preferences, which facilitates more effective communication strategies.

With deeper insights come significant privacy concerns. AI search may collect and analyze vast amounts of personal data to refine their algorithms, which could lead to misuse or breaches of user data.

 

Final Thoughts

With AI poised to significantly reshape search dynamics, communicators must prepare for a landscape where AI not only assists but replaces traditional search methods. This involves staying abreast of AI developments and experimenting with new tools to comprehensively understand their potential impacts.

Google’s AI Overviews is just the beginning, and it signals a new era where AI's influence on communication and information retrieval will only deepen, calling for an equally profound transformation in communication practices.

 

Header credit: Google