Never before has the marketing cohort been so threatened by a new technology. AI and the Large Language Model (LLMs) platforms about to flood the market are possibly the first tools to threaten the very core of the written word. Because until now, writing has been done by humans. The typewriter made it faster, and more legible. Computers made it even faster (with less spelling mistakes). Voice to text apps made it easier for non-writers to create written content; but until now, humans have been the source of words.
Everyone has this moment
Number-crunchers went through a similar crisis. First there were people who could understand and make calculations using their minds - or for more complex equations, an abacus. Then the calculator arrived and suddenly the art of everyday mathematics was in the hands of everyone.
But here is the rub. As a non-numbers person, I rely heavily on the calculator app on my phone - even for the simplest of sums. But as a business owner who needs to put together quotes and budgets, my understanding of maths is outstripped by my calculation needs. In other words - the problems I needs to solve require formulas I don't really understand. So I need help from people who can tell me what the correct formula is to use.
The same will be true of people using ChatGPT applications to write marketing content - it looks good but do they have the skills and experience to know if it is actually good?
Is AI the same as using off-shore writers?
About 10 years ago, as I was launching The Brilliant Content Agency, there was a trend in marketing to outsource blog/article writing to offshore writers. In fact one of the first questions people asked me was "do you use offshore writers?". At the time using local Australian writers was one of my points-of-difference and it has served the business well over the years.
AI is different though. Copywriters and marketers who understand the complexity of how language works will use AI as a tool (not the tool). They will use it to streamline their writing process by automating the rule based aspect of what they do - leaving them to write content at a higher quality, with better research, more effectively.
Using AI to write the first draft of your content quite literally takes a load off the cognitive load. The draft is often not even close to what you want however, it seems even a wrong starting point is better than starting from scratch. And speeds up the process significantly.
Content will get cheaper, right?
Yes it will.
And no it won't.
Cheap content can be created at terrifying speeds using the free version of ChatGPT. And there is a place for that kind of content (I think...) but for brands who value their reputation, cheap, low quality content is kryptonite. Quality content will always come at a price - no matter what speed it is delivered.
For copywriters who charge by the hour, your time is up - if you are relying heavily on AI to help produce work, you're cost per piece has dropped off a cliff. Create packages and sell value - not your time.
So yes, it will get cheaper... and less valued, and more disposable - which doesn't always work out well, (looking at you, plastic).
We're only scraping the surface here
ChatGPT was unleashed at the end of November 2022. The apps and platforms which are in development now will be part of the first generation of LLM's. If you remember one of the first search engines - Ask Jeeves - you have a glimmer of how much further there is to go. And it will happen in a much shorter timeframe - because AI is also helping to write the code.
Back to the original question ...
Are we too precious about the craft of writing - and what are we protecting, the act of writing or the process of creativity?
When you think about it - language is governed by rules. In order to communicate in a certain way - in your brand voice for example - you can add more rules. The beauty of AI is it can quickly learn and apply those rules so you don't have to think about them every time you need to write. They are pre-set.
What AI will never be able to reproduce is the creative thinking which goes behind effective communication. Human beings in all our wonderful diverse uniqueness will always be able to draw on our creativity. The less we need to think about mundane repeatable tasks - the more space our minds will have to imagine the un-repeatable ideas that make for truly brilliant content.
AI was not used to create this article - we still like to hand craft our communication.