The rise of generative artificial intelligence is top of mind for most CEOs these days, and Robert Thomson, the CEO of Wall Street Journal owner News Corp. is no exception.
On his company’s fiscal Q4 earnings call Thursday, Thomson dedicated a section of his opening remarks to generative AI, revealing that his company is in active discussing with AI and tech companies “to establish a value for our unique content sets and IP that will play a crucial role in the future of AI.”
Thomson and News Corp., of course, have long been at the vanguard of seeking payments from Big Tech for accessing the company’s content. It was News Corp. that pushed for and ultimately received payment from Google, Meta and other tech giants in exchange for access to their journalism.
And now it intends to pursue a similar deal with the AI companies, some of whom are also the tech giants that gave in before.
Of course, Thomson also added a few linguistic flourishes, which have been a trademark of his tenure atop the media company.
“We have been characteristically candid about the AI challenge to publishers and to intellectual property. It is essentially a tech triptych,” Thomson told analysts. “In the first instance, our content is being harvested and scraped and otherwise ingested to train AI engines. Ingestion should not lead to indigestion. Secondly, individual stories are being surfaced in specific searches. And, thirdly, original content can be synthesized and presented as distinct when it is actually an extracting of our editorial essence. These super snippets, distilling the effort and insight of great journalism, are potentially designed so the reader will never visit a news site, thus fatally undermining journalism and damaging our societies.”
But he also noted that the technology presented not only “a new stream of revenues” from AI players, but also allows the company “to reduce costs across the business.”
“From the philosophical to the functional, there is no doubt that AI articulations will affect most sections of most companies, whether it be customer service, subscription management, chatbots, chitchatbots, text to audio and audio to video,” Thomson said, adding that the “efficiencies will be exponential.”
The stakes, however, are high.
“If fake news and deep fakes are a concern, the potential for sophisticated forgeries, for counterfeit content is almost endless,” Thomson added on the call. “And, separately, generative AI has the potential to recycle itself in what you might call endless, perfidious permutations, and that’s why the provenance of the archival base is so crucial and why refreshing daily, weekly, with incremental improvements is imperative. So the potential is enormous, but garbage in, garbage out, and garbage all about.”