Jun 16, 2023Liked by Jon Stokes

I’m looking for partners on my project. www.briefer.news

I’m aggregating and summarizing, and looking to create meta summaries by region and subject.



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Jun 15, 2023·edited Jun 16, 2023Liked by Jon Stokes

There was a page made about fixing AI with journalism recently noting the market opportunity for mainstream news to regain the public's trust, along with other ways to aid the news media like making local journalism more efficient and with "pair journalism" pairing AI with journalists akin to "pair programming". Just an excerpt on the market need to fix a broken product:


'A study by Gallup and the Knight Foundation found that in 2020 only 26% of Americans reported a favorable opinion of the news media, and that they were very concerned about the rising level of political bias. In the 1970s around 70% of Americans trusted the news media “a great deal” or a “fair amount”, which dropped to 34% this year, with one study reporting US trust in news media was at the bottom of the 46 countries studied. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that newspaper publisher’s revenue fell 52% from 2002 to 2020 due to factors like the internet and dissatisfaction with the product.

A journalist explained in a Washington Post column that she stopped reading news, noting that research shows she was not alone in her choice. News media in this country is widely viewed as providing a flawed product in general. Reuters Institute reported that 42% of Americans either sometimes or often actively avoid the news, higher than 30 other countries with media that manage to better attract customers. In most industries poor consumer satisfaction leads companies to improve their products to avoid losing market share. When they do not do so quickly enough, new competitors arise to seize the market opening with better products.

An entrepreneur who was a pioneer of the early commercial internet and is now a venture capitalist, Marc Andreessen, observed, the news industry has not behaved like most rational industries: “This is precisely what the existing media industry is not doing; the product is now virtually indistinguishable by publisher, and most media companies are suffering financially in exactly the way you’d expect..” The news industry collectively has not figured out how to respond to obvious incentives to improve their products. '

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Jun 15, 2023Liked by Jon Stokes

FYI, I just emailed the substack with that and more.

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Journalism is a public good. It is not a made for profit "product". The business model for news was destroyed. I don't want to hear from Marc Andreesen about the news business -- spare us his "observations" -- he can stick to venture capital.

There's nothing to figure out. There's no business model for mass audience news anymore. It's small, specialized, modest, driven-by high quality reporting. That's in the process of happening. The ideas here make a lot of sense for entrepreneurial news in the ai era. But looking to what's already taken place pre -ai that got us here...The idea that they didn't "improve their product and "behave like most rational industries" is a bunch of BS. It was in large part because they had to act as economic actors that many failed. Again, it's a public good. The ad model died. Now, media is trying to stitch together philanthropy, ads, and subscriptions etc. to survive.

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Jul 3, 2023Liked by Jon Stokes

Obviously it has been a for profit product for centuries. The existing business model was undermined: which required them to pivot to adapt and change to find a new business model. There were opportunities to do so: but they were ignored due to an industry resistant to change, partly because they hadn't had to before so their management weren't exactly the sort into innovation since they never had to be in the past. Managers into innovation worked in industries where it was prevalent, while the news industry didn't need to pay for management sharp enough to deal with a more rapidly changing industry and therefore a culture developed that was resistant to change.

Some of us in the early-mid 1990s dealt with these people trying to explain what was going to happen to their business models and encountered people who didn't grasp the basics of how to deal with a competitive business environment. Why was there even an opening for a site like Craigslist or Nextdoor? Because a clueless industry didn't bother trying to update its position as the provider of classified ads and local information to deal with the rise of the net.

Its not remotely a "bunch of BS" to those who actually watched the industry closely for decades and saw how clueless they were. They had decades to experiment and try alternative approaches, but very few did. There may be ways for it to modernize: but instead they wish to take the easy way out and beg for government funding or charitable handouts. It seems likely the whole way society provides news will be restructured far more drastically rather than merely bailing out the existing approach.

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Jun 21, 2023Liked by Jon Stokes

I'm all for AI/LLM doing things that allow a journalist the time to do better journalism - ie. better research, deeper stories, etc.

What you describe here is thought-provoking and I can get behind most of it. There are two things that bother me. One is transparency and provenance of the end result. Two is bias.

Dealing with the first one - a consumer of media must be able to establish the provenance of what they are consuming from start to finish. On other words, the who, what, when of the entire process you describe. This is not difficult to do if you're prepared to think a little differently about content and data.

Dealing with the second one, bias, is much more difficult. There is some really interesting research about the consequences of AI generated content being used to feed Llm models. Whatever bias is created intensifies and builds upon itself. Again the integrity and provenance of "data in" and "data out" plays a role here but I also think there are some new human roles that must be created.

This is a great thread .. to be continued?

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Alas, I think you've given short shrift to the fundamental problem that investigative journalism is expensive, but hot-take punditry is cheap. While you note the caveats, sadly almost all that you assert has the same failure-mode we recently saw with blogs, website, etc.

Right here: "... but it would open up the news reporting process to more people and improve the quality of the stories we're able to tell given the current time and budget constraints the media operates under."

Last time around, THIS IDEA FAILED MISERABLY, HORRIBLY, a complete and utter con-job. It was: "Anyone can set up a website, a blog, you-yes-YOU have a printing press! No gatekeepers! There will be a revolution of citizen journalism!"

What happened was that there were a few very small outliers that the hustlers/grifters touted for their self-promotion on the conference circuit, and the industry itself was decimated in the pursuit of clicks.

Look, I love your explanatory stuff, but "we tried it your way, and it didn't work!".

That "next-generation story factory" is going to be one where the culture war and the hot takes are LLM-generated. Because that's the obvious incentives, and that's what the LLM's are extremely good at doing.

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The problem is not that everyone has their own printing press, the problem is that the incentive structure for using that tech is terrible (by design). I talk about that here: https://www.jonstokes.com/p/web3-the-rise-of-the-aligned-web

Obviously yes, we do need to fix the incentive structure. And no, we haven't tried it my way and it didn't work. My way is decentralization, and what we have (and what you're complaining about) is centralization.

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That idea went around too. The buzzword was "disintermediation" back then. It too failed to a really ridiculous extent. That article, and this one, don't grapple deeply with the problem that journalism is to a large extent a public good. It is NOT something which overall matches its "market value", because the benefits are generally diffuse. There are too many articles which basically fantasize that micropayments will make it work. That's a big problem with supposed solutions of that type.

Micropayments are a particularly bad genre, since the writer usually neglects all the little real-world frictions which drive up the costs of a payment. Just how expensive is it to send a bitcoin transaction these days? I know, the shiny NEW system is going to solve this. Until it doesn't.

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This does sound like a big improvement on what we have now, but isn't it a bit like improving the horse and buggy by making a gasoline powered horse to pull the buggy around? If headlines are designed to be misleading and stories are designed to be filler, what we really need is something intermediate in length that shows actual insight in as brief a form as possible.

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