AI and its Effect on Content Partnerships

Have you played the new AI drinking game? Just kidding, I’m not aware of one. If there was one and I did play, I can imagine it would not be pretty because lots of drinks would be had. AI is all the rage and by all the signs, it’s here to stay. As of now, the technology has applications across many organizations and there are a lot of conversations being had about how it’s going to impact the current state of digital marketing. 


Within the affiliate and partnerships channel, it’s been a hot topic and there are a few themes to connect. A couple of months ago, Buzzfeed released its Q4 earnings and this article subsequently followed, which drills deeper into the why behind their earnings. One glaring callout is “Ad revenue declined 27% vs Q4 ‘21. Content revenue (a mixed bag of ad content creation and production revenue) was down 9% YOY. Commerce revenue, mostly affiliate, was a bright spot, up 67% YOY but representing less than 30% of total revenue.” 


Another article I read around the same time highlights the fact that media publications are not okay with AI platforms like ChatGPT benefitting from the content that they’ve invested heavily in creating. In the article, WSJ quoted Danielle Coffey, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of the News Media Alliance, “We have valuable content that’s being used constantly to generate revenue for others off the backs of investments that we make, that requires real human work, and that has to be compensated.”


Connecting the dots between the two, it’s reasonable to hypothesize that if AI platforms are scraping content on digital publication sites, people have less of a reason to read those curated articles. If less people are seeking out articles, it’s reasonable to believe publishers cannot command as much ad revenue. When left in this predicament where affiliate is a shining light, these companies are left with 3 options: 

  1. Find another revenue stream 
  2. Double down on affiliate
  3. Both


Additionally, there is reason to believe these companies are simultaneously embracing AI to build cost efficiencies across their organizations. In the Harris Poll America This Week Tracker, when asked

“How likely do you think it is that the following skills and rolls will be replaced by ChatGPT?”

41% of respondents said Content Creation is Somewhat Likely and 32% said Very Likely.

In fact, publishers like CNET are already putting AI generated stories into practice.


The rabbit hole of “will this be the erosion of original content?” is prolific, but one thing is for sure: the affiliate partnership revenue model is an even greater focus for media publications and it’s reasonable to speculate the revenue model tied to performance PR will now be under a stronger microscope. 


It is an increasingly important time to ensure that your strategy for working with digital media publications through the affiliate model is in tip-top shape. Every media publication operates differently and knowing how to best work with them and how to design a compensation model that works well for them is the key to success.