Google update

Google have recently announced their latest updates and it has taken me a few days to digest them fully. Why? Because it is one of the most significant Google updates we have ever seen. For most of us, Google is, at its heart, a search engine. But gone are the days of searching in that iconic white box. Instead, Google is using AI to transform its business, offerings and products into a one-stop shop.

Summary of Google’s recent announcement

If you have not watched Google’s 2-day developer conference, I do not blame you. It is a lot to take in, even for Search geeks like us. Luckily, I’ve summarised the key points for you below:

1. It’s all about AI 

No surprises here. AI is revolutionising the media landscape as we know it, and now Google is competing with the likes of ChatGPT, Midjourney, and other generative AI applications.

2. Google introduce Gemini 1.5 Pro 

Gemini 1.5 Pro is a more complex model that allows an incredible amount of data or context to be processed to get a more refined answer, giving the user more human interaction when searching. Google will use this new AI power to return search queries with AI-written content that summarises from top-ranking websites.  Think Iron Man, when Tony asks JARVIS a question. This is perhaps the most concerning part as AI does not seem as fictional as it once was.

3. Google’s product suite is expanding

The tech giant also announced new tools for creating music, video and images using AI, in a bid to return to the monopoly they once were.

Google: a one-stop destination

Google wants to secure their place in the future by being the one destination you will ever need. As a simple example, this update allows you to ask Google to ““create a meal plan for my week, when I
work 7 hours a day, and do not have time to cook much”, which would generate a response like this:

AI meal plan

Or you might have a lengthy university seminar that you’d rather listen to than read. By uploading the content, Google AI can convert the text into audio using its text-to-speech technology.

A more complex example. Someone looking to start a new company, could ask, “Can I launch the company now?”, and by scanning through your emails, documents, PDFs, etc, the AI can provide a summary of all that information back to you with a list of yet to be completed tasks. Taking it one step further, Google plans to make all this interaction in real time, through video and audio without lags, which from a technical perspective, saying this is difficult is like saying going to the moon was difficult.

So why the concern?

I think this all sounds incredible, and I am very certain that Google will be able to achieve what they have planned or come very close to it. However, there are many reasons why alarm bells should be ringing, starting with privacy. However, let’s forget about that for now, and focus on the two major areas that I think will impact people’s business the most, particularly small content creators.

Firstly, even though they are called Generative AIs, they do not really generate anything new but take existing content, images, and more to train the models, and then use this to create slightly different variations of it in the way of summaries.

Secondly, there are major concerns around trust. Google has been in multiple lawsuits worldwide and the majority of them have been anti-trust trials.

Issue 1: AI could drive away content creators who cannot afford to have their work stolen, meaning there will be no human input left to feed the generative model

If Google is creating summaries from content creators, and using them like the example I gave above, it means the people or companies that created this content have now had their traffic stolen by Google.

It is truly a lose-lose situation, because without the incredible amount of content creators doing the work, not just Google, but no AI model could have been trained to the complexity levels they have today. Do not get me wrong, it will bring huge profits at the beginning for Google, but with content creators disappearing because they cannot afford to do it for free, what will the future summaries be made of?

With this update, my best estimation is that the worst affected industries will see a 20% decline in traffic by the end of 2025 if things move according to Google’s calendar. But it does not stop there. I also mentioned how the new model can create photo-realistic images and sounds for music and video with studio quality. For example, if you are a voice actor, there are going to be fewer chances for you to get hired to voice as AI can do it for less.

The same applies to graphic designers, musicians, authors, and so on. But more than that, it is going to hurt innovation because Gen AI “creates” from existing content, so what happens if there is no new content to inspire? Its learnings will begin to stall, and creativity as we know it will diminish.

Issue 2: You are trusting Google to produce reputable and factual content, when the company itself has a proven track record of mistrust

The second issue is equally if not more worrisome. As previously mentioned, Google is deciding what content to create summaries from and how to summarise that content. This means that as a user, you are trusting Google to find only reputable sources of information, to fact-check sources (when many news outlets if not all, are very polarised) and to summarise all that information in a balanced and fair way.

Now, bearing in mind that the European Union has fined Google more than 8 billion Euros for antitrust issues with the Android operating system, and the fact that the US Department of Justice is investigating allegations that Google manipulated ad auctions to artificially increase the price by as much as 10% to meet revenue targets, it may not be the wisest company to place all your hopes on.

So if there has been ever any doubt about why you should test new publishers, engines or partners, this is the time to be more adventurous and start testing new things, both for content creators and for brands that spend a large proportion of their budget with Google or the majority of it.

Looking to the future

AI could help increase efficiencies, but this must be balanced with ensuring fair practices if this technology is to survive. Google’s recent announcements represent a monumental shift in their strategy, leveraging advanced AI technologies to transform from a search engine into an all-encompassing digital assistant. This shift has come from a need to survive rather than innovate as competitors such as CoPilot, ChatGPT and Midjourney have revolutionised the way we think about search. To keep up, it was only inevitable that Google would launch their own generative AI capabilities, but the fashion in which they have done it so quickly, already entering the realm of music, video and image, is what is most surprising, and reflective of how fast AI is growing.

As personal users, as well as advertisers and brands, we cannot get swept up in the awe of AI technology and must keep a sensible hat on. We have to question the source of generative content as concerns around the ethics of who the content is taken from and how trustworthy the sources are is still prevalent.

However, in the future, as this technology develops, we may see a balance between harnessing AI’s potential and ensuring fair practices that support all stakeholders in the digital ecosystem, which will be much more beneficial for users and search engines alike.

For more information on the future of AI and how it could impact advertisers contact our expert team today.

Guillermo Dvorak - Managing Partner, Digital and Data

Author: Guillermo Dvorak - Managing Partner, Digital and Data