Germany's biggest publisher warns AI could 'replace' journalism

AFP , Tuesday 28 Feb 2023

German media giant Axel Springer warned on Tuesday that journalists risked being made obsolete by artificial intelligence.

 ChatGPT prompt is shown on a device near a public school in Brooklyn, New York, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2
ChatGPT prompt is shown on a device near a public school in Brooklyn, New York, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023. AP


"Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to make independent journalism better than it ever was -- or simply replace it," Axel Springer CEO Mathias Doepfner said in an internal letter to employees seen by AFP.

Computers using AI would soon be better at the "aggregation of information" than human journalists, Doepfner predicted.

He said media outlets must focus on generating exclusive news or original commentary and features if they want to survive.

Investigative journalism, personality driven features and entertainment coverage were becoming "increasingly important" for the media business, Doepfner said.

And divining the "true motives" behind events would remain a job for journalists, he said.

AI-powered tools like Microsoft-backed ChatGPT promised a "revolution" in information, he said.

The programme has taken the world by storm with its ability to generate finely crafted texts such as essays or poems in just seconds using AI technology known as large language models (or LLM).

Axel Springer's goal was to become "digital only", Doepfner said, adding that the transition would "take a few more years".

Around 85 percent of the group's revenue and 95 percent of its profits came from its digital activities, he said.

As such, Axel Springer would "build up and cut jobs at the same time", said Doepfner, whose group employs around 18,000 people worldwide.

"Significant reductions" would be seen in areas like production and proofreading at the group, whose titles include Germany's best-selling daily Bild.

In recent years, Axel Springer has expanded internationally, with the acquisition of news site Business Insider and US-based Politico.

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