Microsoft has announced a series of new features for Bing Chat that aim to drive more traffic and value to publishers from the new AI search chatbot. In a blog post last week, Microsoft assured publishers that it is committed to supporting them and providing them with value and benefits from the new Bing.
The AI-based search engine, which is powered by OpenAI's GPT-4 model, aims to provide users with more personalized and relevant search results by generating natural language responses based on their queries. Microsoft's integration of GPT-4 into Bing Chat last month also brought multimodal AI capabilities including Bing Image Creator and recently the ability to search images and videos.
Despite the obvious benefits for users, publishers have expressed concerns that the AI search engine could reduce their traffic and revenue by bypassing their websites and providing direct answers to users. They have also questioned how Microsoft would ensure the quality and accuracy of the AI-generated content, as well as respect the intellectual property rights of the original sources.
Just two years ago, Microsoft president, Brad Smith, told a congressional hearing (PDF) that tech companies – including Microsoft – were not paying media companies enough for their content. While Microsoft has been relatively porgressive in siding with publishers, Bing Chat arguably adds a new way to not pay them.
Microsoft Moves to Ease Publisher Concerns
It is a concern I have and in February I wrote about a potential content exodus if publishers/websites are unable to monetize. Microsoft insists this will not happen and the goal of Bing Chat is not to stop users from visiting websites and sources. To reassure publishers and content creators, the company says it it committed to the following steps:
- Respect the publisher's choice to opt-in or opt-out of having their content used by the AI-based search engine. Publishers can use the Bing Webmaster Tools to indicate their preference and control how their content is displayed on the AI-based search engine.
- Share a portion of the advertising revenue generated by the AI-based search engine with publishers whose content is used by the AI-based search engine. Microsoft said that it would use a transparent and fair mechanism to determine the revenue share based on factors such as the quality, relevance, and popularity of the content.
- Provide publishers with feedback and insights on how their content performs on the AI-based search engine. Publishers can access data such as impressions, clicks, engagement, and ranking factors through the Bing Webmaster Tools.
- Collaborate with publishers to improve the quality and accuracy of the AI-generated content. Microsoft said that it would use various methods to verify and validate the AI-generated content, such as human evaluation, user feedback, and external sources. Microsoft also said that it would respect the intellectual property rights of the original sources and provide proper attribution and links to them.
“Let's start with our goals,” Microsoft says “First, we want to drive more traffic to publishers in this new world of search. It is a top goal for us, and we measure success in part by how much traffic we are sending from the new Bing/Edge. Second, we want to increase revenue to publishers. We seek to do this by both driving more traffic to them through new features like chat and answers and by also pioneering the future of advertising in these new mediums as I will describe below. Lastly, we want to go about this in collaborative fashion working with the industry to continue to foster a healthy ecosystem.”
Putting Bing and Microsoft to the Test
In the image above, I asked Bing Chat for the latest news on US president Joe Biden. Microsoft's AI search surfaceed basic headline information and a list of half a dozen sources to get more information. That seems measured and fair, not providing too much information and allowing users to click links to news sources if they want to known more.
If you switch Bing Chat into Creative mode, it becomes a littler less vague and provides more information. In the image below you can see that it offers more details on Donald Trump's court case. Bing still delivers sources if users want to know more, but the casual user may have enough information from the sippet to get what they need:
The problem is, using Bing Chat is fun. Interacting with a natural language AI is interesting, at least until any novelty wears off. A simple prompt in Bing to tell you more about a subject and the AI will surface what is essetially a small news story about the subject. You still get the sources, but there is much less reason to visit them.
Creative mode is even more willing to hand over information, essentially writing a whole article on a simple “tell me more” prompt.
New Bing Chat Features to Help Publishers
Microsoft says that it believes that the AI-based search engine is a win-win proposition for both users and publishers. The company claims it will enhance the user experience and drive more traffic and value to publishers. Microsoft also said that it would continue to innovate and partner with publishers to deliver more value and benefits to both sides.
The company points to changes it has made to Bing News in recent years that reflect its commitment to publishers. For example, the Bing News Carousel, which allows users to swipe through stories from multiple sources. Bing New Spotlight appears on the Bing Homepage and shows the biggest trending stories.
Bing News Quiz tests users on their knowledge of current events and publishers can create their own questions and answers. Lastly, Bing News Insights offers a dashboard of analytics and insights that publishers can leverage to see impressions, clicks, engagement, audience demographics, and ranking factors. Publishers can also get feedback and suggestions from Bing on how to improve their news quality and relevance.
While these tools were available before Bing Chat, they are integrated into the AI search experience. It will be interesting to see if publishers are convinced by Microsoft's claims that Bing Chat is on their side.
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