Will marketers survive the content shock in the age of AI? The Omnes Education Group launched a cross-organisational programme in English called “Content creation in the age of AI” to help its students better understand GenAI. Close to 1,000 students will be certified in this program by early February 2024. As part of the program, Visionary Marketing interviewed Mark Schaefer, one of the world’s most renowned marketing bloggers, to gain insights on how marketers should approach the new content shock caused by AI. Schaefer’s answers were thought-provoking and valuable for both established and aspiring content creators.
Surviving the Content Shock in the Age of AI
Understanding Before Idealising
Understanding GenAI in 2024 is a must, regardless of the fact that you like it or not. By that I not only mean how it works, but how it must be used, when it must and must not be used, what its limitations are, and the societal questions its implementation raise.
My stance on this is very straightforward:
What one gets to grips with (rationally), one never fears nor idealises
Banning GenAI in schools will serve no purpose
I am convinced that merely banning the usage of GenAI, as I see it done in many US universities now, isn’t a good idea. For one, it will not stop students from wielding those tools. There is always a workaround. Besides, it will not help them develop a critical eye towards technology and its — inevitable — limitations.
For this reason, the Omnes Education Group, one of the largest in Europe, launched a very ambitious cross organisational programme in English for all its students. I was very lucky to work with them on that project. I wasn’t alone. Bénédicte, Julie and Fanny are part of an amazing team with whom I really enjoyed working.
GenAI: approx. 1,000 students will be certified
At the end of the process, in early February 2024, close to 1,000 students will be certified within this “Content creation in the age of AI” programme.
Given the subject, it made perfect sense for me to interview one of the world’s best marketing bloggers, Mark Schaefer, whose work has inspired us at Visionary Marketing for the past ten years at least. I interviewed Mark as part of this lecture, so that he could tell us how marketers should tackle this new content shock.
As always, his answers were thought-provoking. They are a lesson for all established and would-be content creators who want to know the way ahead.
This exchange is one of many that we recorded for our students and cannot be disclosed. The school representatives were kind enough to let me publish Mark’s interview publicly, though. This is a condensed version of our exchange.
The content shock, 10 years later: an arms race of content
“The thesis behind the content shock article is that, in an economic system, a natural system, or a human system, if there’s too much of something, there has to be an adjustment.”
This is true of water, snow, pollution, heat… and there are no reasons why content creation wouldn’t be following that rule either, Mark explained.
“You’re going to have a flood and you will need to adjust,” he went on. “This pattern repeats in every channel where there’s a need for content. When a new channel becomes popular, the amount of content in the channel goes up, up, up, up, up. And so, it becomes an arms race. And it’s a never-ending Market definition in B2B and B2C - The very notion of "market" is at the heart of any marketing approach. A market can be defined....”
As always, Mark is hitting the nail on the head. All content creators have been through this before. Those who published monthly in the 1990s, started publishing weekly 10 years later, then daily and finally, several times a day. The “Publish or perish” adage has never been so true. And so it goes with social platforms too. Publishing once a month on LinkedIn isn’t going to make you very popular. After a while, one can wonder whether publishing ever more content still makes sense.
Either you create better content or promote it better (or both).
“And you only have two choices,” Mark went on. “You must create better and better content. And there’s a price to that. Or you must promote it better and better and there’s a cost to that too.”
This is something that happens with every social media channel, old and new. “Now we have threads and everybody — in the States — says, ‘go on threads! It’s easy to find an audience.’” But it never lasts for long. By the time the platform has become popular and everyone has migrated to it, it has become a lot more difficult to find one’s audience.
This is “a repeating pattern”, Mark explains.
What of Generative AI?
Thus, “how does generative AI impact content creation?” Things, as usual, aren’t black or white.
- On the one hand, “There’s a wonderful benefit of this. It unleashes creativity and productivity in wonderful new ways.”
- On the flip side, it floods, and will increasingly flood the market with content.
Let’s start with the positive side, increased creativity, and productivity. Mark comes up with an anecdote about that: “I have a friend who is, by her own admission, a terrible writer. Enters ChatGPT. She says, ‘Now, I can blog every day. I might even be able to write a book.’ That’s wonderful! ChatGPT to writing is like a calculator to math. It makes everyone a competent writer, that’s wonderful.”
On the other hand, flooding the market with a lot of new content may not be such a good idea. “It makes the whole content shock problem a lot more severe,” Mark added. “There are a lot of unethical (black hat) things going on. The system can’t survive in the long term.”
Taken at face value, all this doesn’t bode well for content marketing. Yet, there is another way of looking at it and Mark remains, overall, rather optimistic. I think he is right. A large system like the Internet will almost always purge itself automatically. If the content is poor, users will leave eventually and that will force platforms and search engines to clean up their act.
GenAI and the content shock: not so serious
Indeed, Mark thinks that things will improve over time. “Those people will end up being penalised and they will go away and eventually, the system will work itself out. I’m not so much worried about the short term.
I think we need to stay focused on doing good work, doing exceptional work.”
Being known is what will save us
Mark, as the author of the best-selling opus “Known,” believes that “only our personal brands will save us. Being known and beloved will enable us to earn our own audiences,” he added.
This reminds me of my advice in this PushEngage webinar about GenAI in 2020. Since bad content will be plentiful, those in search of valuable information will have to focus on recognised, trustworthy sources. Not just mainstream media, but bloggers, renowned professionals, and influencers. People they can trust.
For those who have worked on their reputation, Mark says, there is no real issue with the excess of content.
AI-driven Content-Shock: A threat for tomorrow, not so much for today
In fact, the sheer volume of content produced has no impact.
“Let’s say we are a blogger trying to compete in a world where there are millions of other blog posts. Whether it’s 1 million or 1 billion, doesn’t really matter. Regardless, we will have to earn our way. And as you have suggested, a lot of this AI generated content isn’t very good. Yet, it’s going to get better. I think the most significant thing about generative content is not really the threat it provides now, but the threat it provides tomorrow because it’s getting so much better so fast.
I think that in the next 18 months, we will be able to create a full-motion picture from our room, our kitchen table, with almost no money. And that’s why a lot of the writers and actors were on strike in Hollywood.”
ChatGPT mimics Shelly Palmer in just five seconds
To wrap up this interview, Mark told us an anecdote. “When ChatGPT was introduced, I immediately went to a friend of mine, Shelly Palmer, who is a very well-known technology analyst in America. I asked him what he thought of it. He said, ‘it’s terrifying. I’ve asked this thing to create a blog post in the voice of Shelly Palmer. And it did a magnificent job in five seconds. I’m 80% replaced.’”
Once again, on the face of it, one could think that this is the end of content marketing. Mostly on technology topics that are so well covered on the Internet.
“But let’s look at it more closely,” Mark concluded. “What is the 20% made of? What will not be replaced?”
The answer to this question is simpler than you think. “Shelly is known, he is trusted,” Mark explains, “he is beloved. And that is something that ChatGPT can never take away from him.”
It is clear, from what Mark and Shelly expressed, that the students who want to thrive tomorrow will have to up their game significantly. Let’s hope that this education programme and certificate by Omnes will help them achieve this very goal.
The Omnes Education Group team developed this beautiful and inspiring trailer based on my introductory text for this programme. It was sent to all students within the group to inform them and encourage them to enrol. Click the button to discover the Omnes Education Group.