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Google's Search Generative Experience Raises Concerns Among Publishers

Google has introduced a novel search tool named the Search Generative Experience (SGE), which leverages generative AI to provide users with AI-generated summaries in response to specific search queries. The tool displays these summaries at the top of the Google search homepage, offering links to explore the subject in greater depth. However, this development has raised concerns among publishers, who are trying to ascertain their role in an era where AI could potentially dominate the way users discover and pay for information.

SGE has a growing presence, with availability in the United States, India, and Japan. Despite being positioned as an opt-in experiment for users to help Google refine the product, publishers are anxious about its impact on web traffic, questions surrounding the attribution of information in the AI-generated summaries, the accuracy of these summaries, and, perhaps most significantly, the compensation for the content used to train AI tools like those used in SGE.

Publishers are concerned about the potential reduction in web traffic as a result of the new design, which places the links that usually appear in traditional search further down the page. This change may reduce traffic to these links by as much as 40%, posing a significant challenge for publishers who rely on clicks to attract advertisers. Furthermore, there is apprehension that web users may forego clicking on the links altogether if the SGE-generated passage satisfies their information needs, thereby impacting publishers' traffic.

Publishers are calling for compensation for the content on which Google and other AI companies train their AI tools, a crucial point of contention. Google has stated that it is working to develop a better understanding of the business model for generative AI applications and is actively seeking input from publishers and other stakeholders. In late September, Google unveiled Google-Extended, which offers publishers the option to block their content from being used by Google to train its AI models, as a goodwill gesture.

The option to opt out of AI crawling represents a positive step, yet it doesn't cover SGE, making it challenging for publishers to manage the use of their content within this context. This development comes at a time when publishers are grappling with the need to adapt their strategies to align with the evolving landscape of AI-driven information discovery, raising critical questions about compensation, traffic, and the role of publishers in a world shaped by AI technology.

Google's Search Generative Experience Raises Concerns Among Publishers

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