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YESEO app creator, Ryan Restivo, talks AI, SEO & News!

Plus, NYT vs. OpenAI, top headlines, & 20% off my January course!

Welcome to The Upgrade

Welcome to my weekly newsletter, which focuses on the intersection of AI, media, and storytelling. A special welcome to my new readers from Oregon Public Media, Concitor, Motley Krug Media, and many other top organizations — you’re in good company!

In today’s issue:

  • The Week’s Top AI Stories 📰

  • 🏛️ Court Case: The New York Times Suit vs. OpenAI

  • 🎓 20% Off my live, online AI Fundamentals course⚡️

  • 🎙️The Big Interview: Ryan Restivo, Founder of the YESEO App and RJI Fellow talks AI & SEO!

The Week’s Top AI Stories

Top AI Headlines

  • Perplexity AI raises $74M to take on Google and Microsoft Bing with AI-native search — VentureBeat

  • Jeff Bezos Bets on a Google Challenger Using AI to Try to Upend Internet Search — The Wall Street Journal

  • OpenAI Offers Publishers as Little as $1 Million a Year — The Information

  • Tech’s AI Hangover Might Just Be Getting Started — The Wall Street Journal

Regulation & Policy

Ethics & Safety

  • Why Cybersecurity Is Foundational To AI Safety — Forbes

  • America’s Big AI Safety Plan Faces a Budget Crunch — WIRED

Legal & Copyright

  • New York Times Newshounds Will Not Derail the AI Copycats — The Financial Times (Opinion)

  • AI’s future could hinge on one thorny legal question — The Washington Post

  • Camera Companies Fight AI-Generated Images With 'Verify' Watermark Tech — PCMag

In the Workplace

Happy Puppies and Silly Geese: Pushing the Limits of A.I. Absurdity — The New York Times

  • AI Hallucinations Are a Boon to Creatives — Bloomberg

  • Microsoft Paint, supercharged: How to use new AI and Photoshop-like features — PCWorld

  • Generative AI And The Future Of Jobs — Forbes

🏛️The New York Times vs OpenAI🧑‍⚖️

On December 27th, The New York Times filed a landmark lawsuit against OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, and Microsoft, alleging unauthorized use of its journalistic content. The suit, filed in Manhattan federal court, accuses the defendants of using millions of the Times' articles to train their AI chatbots without permission, constituting a "free-ride" on the newspaper's substantial investment in journalism​​.

The lawsuit underscores a critical challenge for news organizations: protecting their intellectual property in the AI era. The Times argues that using its content without compensation to create AI products that substitute for the newspaper threatens its audience base and revenue streams. Read examples of the alleged copyright infringement from the lawsuit filing here.

OpenAI and Microsoft contend that their use of copyrighted material for AI training falls under "fair use," a widely recognized legal doctrine. However, this claim is contentious, particularly when AI outputs directly compete with the original publishers and content creators. The lawsuit represents an existential risk to OpenAI, and could significantly influence how AI companies approach data scraping and content utilization in the future​​. In recent years, OpenAI has not disclosed its own data sources.

For consumers, this lawsuit raises questions about the sources and reliability of information provided by AI chatbots. Instances where AI systems have provided near-verbatim excerpts from copyrighted articles or falsely attributed content highlight the serious risks of relying on these tools in a professional context.

The case represents a defining moment in the evolving relationship between generative AI tech and the media industry. However, the outcome could have far-reaching implications for how AI is developed, regulated, and integrated into various sectors, not just media​​. Its outcome will likely shape the future of content creation, IP rights, and the internet itself.

🎓 AI Fundamentals: Now 20% OFF! 💻

AI Fundamentals for Professional Communicators and Marketers covers the essentials of Generative AI for media and marketing professionals with novice and beginner-level experience with AI tools. The live 90-minute sessions will take place on Wednesdays, starting January 17th, at 7pm ET / 4pm PT. Only a few spots left!⚡️


🎙️Interview: YESEO Founder Ryan Restivo

Ryan Restivo founded YESEO, a free Slack app that helps newsrooms create SEO-optimized headlines. He’s also an RJI Fellow.

Note: This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Peter: What’s the backstory of YESEO? What does it do?

Ryan: YESEO originated during my time as an RJI fellow. It's a Slack app designed to assist newsrooms in implementing SEO best practices. The idea was sparked during an exercise at Mizzou with other fellows, where Tara Pixley suggested the name 'YESEO'.

Initially, YESEO was created to solve a common problem in newsrooms: improving Google rankings for stories. I realized that our stories weren't optimized for SEO, affecting their visibility. To address this, I designed YESEO as a Slack-integrated tool, eliminating the need for endless Google Sheets, etc. It’s unique because it doesn’t require additional software or complicated installation processes.

The initial version focused on analyzing published content. However, based on feedback, I expanded it to include a 'pre-publishing' feature, allowing editors to optimize content before it goes live. This feature is now used for over two-thirds of stories, indicating its significant impact on the newsroom SEO process. YESEO has become a versatile tool for improving online content visibility and over 300 newsrooms have installed it.

Peter: Can you explain how YESEO works, especially its pre-publishing features, and how it improves SEO from a user's perspective?

Ryan: Using YESEO is really straightforward. What's cool is YESEO recognizes the language of your story and selects the right language model to identify key keywords. It prompts you to specify your location and market, like Ohio or Western Canada, and the timeframe of your story, whether it's breaking news or a feature piece. After a few minutes, YESEO sends a notification indicating that your analysis is ready. It shows the main keywords, how closely your headline aligns with your story content, and even offers suggestions on headlines using GPT technology.

This feature has been a hit as it sparks creativity. Users often blend different suggestions to create unique headlines, optimizing their SEO. The best part? It requires human input, ensuring that a person's judgment is always crafting the final version.

Peter: Can you tell us about some of YESEO's users and how they've benefited from your free app in optimizing their headlines?

Ryan: Hundreds of newsrooms have installed it, and over 10,000 stories have been published with SEO-optimized headlines using YESEO! Our user base is quite diverse. For instance, Jenna Dooley from WNIJ at Northern Illinois University shared how YESEO helped them achieve the highest Google search traffic and page views for a locally produced story in over a year.

YESEO is used by various organizations, from public radio stations to TV stations and newspapers. For example, a news organization in Canada supports about 40 newspapers using YESEO. There's also Richland Source, a Lion member, finding great value in it. We provide extensive training and case studies, which are available at yeseo.app.

Peter: What do you think has been the most significant impact of AI on news so far?

Ryan: That's a big question. AI has been reshaping news for years, even before it became a buzzword. For instance, back in 2012, Narrative Science was creating AI-driven stories for sports and corporate earnings, and the AP used automation for business stories. Tools like Sophie have automated story placement on homepages, and The Guardian has utilized natural language processing for extracting quotes.

The key to the future of newsrooms, in my view, is embracing AI as a tool rather than seeing it as a threat, but always keeping the human element central. AI, including LLMs and tools on Hugging Face, is not about replacing human judgment but enhancing it, especially in decision-making processes. AI in journalism is about efficiency – getting the right information faster and more effectively. However, it's crucial to remember that AI is still imperfect, often resembling advanced predictive text rather than full cognition. Newsrooms that recognize this and use AI to complement human creativity and judgment will lead the way.

Peter: As we kick off 2024, how do you see AI evolving and impacting the news media landscape?

Ryan: That's a challenging question, too, because the trajectory of AI is incredibly unpredictable. Just a year ago, I couldn't have imagined where we'd be today. Many initiatives focus on utilizing AI to enhance job performance, but there's still a prevailing sense of fear in newsrooms about how technology might impact jobs. In addressing these fears, transparency is key. When I discuss YESEO with users, I emphasize that the app is designed for their benefit, to enhance rather than replace their work. The goal is to alleviate the apprehension surrounding AI and technology in general.

Looking ahead, the main challenge is the rapid pace of technological change and its unpredictable effects on news production and consumption. We must continue to address and mitigate the fears associated with these changes. My focus is on ensuring newsrooms are not left behind but are equipped to adapt and thrive in this evolving landscape. Technology should be seen as a tool for empowerment, not a source of fear.

Don’t be shy—hit reply if you have thoughts or feedback. I’d love to connect with you!

Until next week,

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