I want to start by looking back about three years. Crypto, blockchain, NFTs, Web 3 and the Metaverse were all getting hyped to incredible levels. They were going to change the world. Democratize experiences. Start adapting now or be ready for redundancy! Matt Damon was telling us to be bold. Don’t miss out!
I was not bold. The super bowl ads for crypto didn’t move me. If anything, I was confused.
I never understood any of it. I’m not ashamed to admit that now, especially with how things turned out. Thanks for nothing, Sam Bankman-Fried.
When sorting through all the hype around each of those areas, I couldn’t resolve a crucial question: what problems did they solve for the average person? Aside from the Metaverse, which I figured would appeal to a decent-sized niche, none of the others seemed to have any real use case for the public. At least I couldn’t articulate one.
Fast forward to last November. ChatGPT has exploded into the public consciousness. Out of nowhere, I’m getting texts from colleagues telling me how AI can write a press release in under a minute. People were fretting about massive job losses in the future.
Immediately, I saw a clear use case. I saw problems AI could solve. I also saw problems AI would create. I wasn’t unique as most people envisioned those same things.
The user growth of ChatGPT was incredible. News reports estimate that ChatGPT hit 100 million monthly active users by January 2023. This made it the fastest-growing application in history until Threads took that distinction in July.
Without a doubt, AI was going to have an impact. Maybe a big one.
Where things stand now
Now more than a year later, I’ve experimented with several AI tools to augment and assist my work producing various types of content.
Mainly, I’ve used AI for:
Revising copy. AI is perfect for taking longer-form content – like this blog – and cutting it down into key messages, bullet points and social media posts.
Creating thought starters. I remain committed to NEVER using AI to write content coming out under my name, but creating a list of ideas is fair game.
Evaluating reading levels and potential audience interest.
Nothing too revolutionary there, but AI tools are saving me at least an hour a day. And with Microsoft co-pilot on the way for Word and PowerPoint, I expect additional productivity gains in 2024.
Now, there are a lot of cautions that need to be taken with AI-created content. Copyright infringement, bias, hallucinations and information accuracy are just a few concerns.
Those are big issues. Massive.
Yet, anyone whose job involves creating content needs to try some of the available AI tools and see how they might make daily work easier, especially for lower-value and low-risk writing projects.
The future of AI 'copywriting'
Unlike blockchain, crypto and NFTs, the time is now for AI and content creation. And AI use for writing is only going to get more prevalent in the future. Here’s one great point as to why:
Folks. Writing is hard (@#$%) work. It’s physically taxing and mentally exhausting. The vast majority of people do it because they *have to* and because they’re paid to, not for love of L’ecriture. And they will absolutely embrace machines that can lift some of that burden. - Matthew Kirschenbaum via Twitter.
He’s right on target.
I did have to look up the meaning of L’ecriture. Here is what Google’s AI tool Bard had to say,
The French word l'écriture can be used in a metaphorical sense to refer to the act of self-expression or the process of creating something new. For example, a philosopher might write about "l'écriture du soi" (the writing of the self), or an artist might talk about "l'écriture d'un tableau" (the writing of a painting). Overall, the word l'écriture is a rich and complex term that can be used in many different ways.
That’s cool. I hope it’s accurate. AI can hallucinate.
I love to write and have plenty of content ideas, but even for me the process of writing is not always easy. Furthermore, some of the writing I do – especially at work – is more rote than the creative writing outlets provided by my blog or on social media.
As Kirschenbaum points out, when thinking about what AI can do, we need to be honest about what so much of business writing really is:
The vast majority of what gets written isn’t “creative” at all. It’s not even “copy.” It’s office work. That may not be what we think of as “writing” in an aspirational sense, but it’s absolutely writing from the standpoint of actual labor economy.
I have a hard time imagining a future where more and more people aren’t using AI tools to create that type of content.
That’s not necessarily negative. In fact, I think it creates more opportunity for people who like to write and for original, interesting content to find people.
Breaking through isn’t going to be easy, but if you take the time to build an audience, it will be possible.
What you should do in 2024
If your job involves content creation, testing AI tools is vital. The best case for a content writer’s future employment is being someone who can produce strong content with and without AI assistance.
It will also be important to track trends in AI content. Even if you never come around to fully embracing AI in your process, you can’t pretend that others aren’t doing that.
This is no time to go into full ostrich mode. Observe and understand instead.
AI Doomer or Boomer?
I don’t know where you stand, but I’m right in the middle. Generative AI has some great use cases, but raises a lot of questions and concerns. However, I think cautious experimentation is the way to go on a personal level.
Artificial general intelligence – where AI surpasses human intelligence and may begin functioning without human control or limits – is truly scary stuff. Societal change could be massive.
The scariest part is that no human being no matter how smart they are can tell you what happens when human intelligence is surpassed. And the recent chaos at OpenAI doesn't create a lot of confidence that good - or even adequate - governance is taking place.
More resources on this topic:
🤖 AXIOS article: All the AI terms you need to know
🎙️ 𝐏𝐎𝐃𝐂𝐀𝐒𝐓: I spoke with Chris Boyer about how communicators should be thinking about using AI at their organizations. Listen here.
🎁 BONUS CONTENT (aka more words)
A use case for AI content that I really love
If you know me well, you probably know I hate cover letters.
As noted above, I'm extremely cautious when it comes to using AI to write content, but when it comes to creating cover letters, I'm all for it.
Most candidates hate writing cover letters. I do.
Most hiring managers don't read cover letters. I don't.
So when you see a cover letter is required to apply for a job, put some decent prompts into ChatGPT or an equivalent, do some light editing, save and submit.
Using AI to create content is going to be a job skill that's important for the future. Why not build your comfort level now?
I still hate cover letters – they are an outdated concept and duplicative of resumes – but I like them a whole lot more when AI does the heavy lifting of writing a first draft.
I mean, nobody is going to read your cover letter anyway. In 2024, odds are cover letters you submit are going to be reviewed by AI anyway.
As long as some jobs still require cover letters, AI is a good option to reduce stress and save time.