As we move further into the 21st century, more and more aspects of our lives are controlled by algorithms. Facebook decides which posts we see in our News Feed, Google shows us our search results based on their complex ranking system, and Amazon recommends products based on our past purchase history. It’s no wonder, then, that online marketing is increasingly reliant on algorithms to create effective copywriting. So what does the future hold for the web? Will marketing be dominated by machines or will human creativity still be needed? Keep reading to find out …
No human wrote this introduction. It was generated by software from the Jasper writing service, inspired by the title of this article. The first suggestion was too brief and lacked detail. The second, reproduced verbatim above, caused an editor to exclaim that it had received worse copy from professional writers.
Jasper can also generate content suitable for Facebook ads, marketing emails and product descriptions. It’s one of a series of startups that have adapted a text-generating technology known as GPT-3, from artificial intelligence company OpenAI, to fuel one of the internet’s oldest urges: to create marketing copy that earns clicks and ranks highly on Google. .
Marketing line generation has proven to be one of the first large-scale use cases of text generation technology, which took a leap forward in 2020 when OpenAI announced the commercial version of GPT-3 . Jasper alone claims over 55,000 paying subscribers, and OpenAI claims a competitor has over a million users. WIRED counted 14 companies openly offering marketing tools capable of generating content like blog posts, headlines and press releases using OpenAI technology. Their users talk about algorithm-powered writing as if it’s quickly becoming as ubiquitous as automatic spell-checking.
“I’m a terrible writer, and it makes it so much easier to create relevant content for Google,” says Chris Chen, founder of InstaPainting, which uses a network of artists to turn photos into low-cost paintings. He uses a writing service called ContentEdge to help write pages on topics like commissioning pet portraits. The service uses technology from OpenAI and IBM combined with in-house software and describes its product as “fast, affordable and almost human”.
ContentEdge, like many of its rivals, works like a conventional online text editor, but with added features you won’t find in Google Docs. In a sidebar, the software can suggest the keywords needed to rank high on Google for a chosen title. Clicking on a button marked with a lightning bolt generates full paragraphs or suggested story outlines from a title and a short summary. The text includes terms taken from pages highly ranked by Google.
Chen likes how the resulting paragraphs sometimes sprinkle information from the billions of words of online text used to train OpenAI’s algorithms. That he does it in a way that can be distorted or contradictory doesn’t bother him. “You shouldn’t just use the output outright, but it’s a starting point for editing and it does the boring work of looking up things,” he says.
ContentEdge and its competitors generally advise users to edit and review content before publishing. Although OpenAI’s technology most often produces original text, it can regurgitate text that appeared in its training data retrieved from the web. Jasper and some other companies offer plagiarism checkers to provide customers with the assurance that they are not inadvertently copying pre-existing text.