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Transatlantic cooperation of world democracies is a better way to go about AI regulation over an isolationist one: Mathias Döpfner

In an interaction with Fortune’s Editor-in-Chief and Chief Content Officer- Alyson Shontell on Day 3 of the 70th edition of Cannes Lions, Döpfner, Chairman and CEO, Axel Springer, touched upon the various ways in which AI will transform media companies, the future of newsrooms and more

Taking the centre stage on Day 3 of Cannes Lions with Fortune’s Editor-in-Chief and Chief Content Officer- Alyson Shontell, Mathias Döpfner, Chairman and CEO, Axel Springer, elaborated on how AI will bring about a change in newsrooms and media. 

“We don't want to be forced by developments that basically are so obvious that everybody does it, we really want to be ahead of the curve and at the forefront of these innovations. Hence, for us, it is very obvious that certain outdated production structures and workflows need to be changed proactively and that is what has happened in the case of Bild,” he said. 

He also stated that today, with the evolution of AI, the world needs to focus on having reporters on the streets rather than having offices in the physical sense and of these, one needs to have investigative reporters or more experts who can report on certain topics and are more great writers so that we can improve the quality of regional reporting.

Further, he also debunked the notion of people believing that media houses are using AI just as an alibi to cut costs and gave out statistics and numbers to support that in the case of Axel Springer, the organisation has only acted out of a position of economic strength and success, regardless of the macro environment factors. 

He said, “While we may be facing some headwinds in terms of digital advertising trends in America, in Germany, the market is 20% down compared to the previous year and we are ahead of the previous year, in fact we are up.”

Commenting on what would be the impact of AI on the various business models of media - including subscriptions, programmatic revenue, direct revenue, etc. Döpfner emphasised that in his views while advertising will continue to remain very important, the execution will change to be more efficient and beneficial for customers and media brands.

“The whole definition of which information is really needed and which should be worked on by human beings needs to be clearly distinguished and the whole idea of aggregate information that is out there owing to wire services or an editor sitting down and rewriting it is a totally outdated model which can be done with Generative AI in seconds,” he said.

He further stated the viewpoint that both- Google through Bard and Microsoft through OpenAI’s ChatGPT will keep extremely relevant positions this time since they have a very own egoistic interest to help publishers, creative companies, content creators so as to keep financial incentives and to keep business models because they also need what these content creating individuals/companies produce.

“The best model, in my view, is a quantitative model like in the music industry where they have to first prove the IP that they crawled rather than us proving that our IPs have been crawled, which is the main rule. And if there is transparency in what they use, there will be certain methodologies how you quantify and according to the quantity of the IP you use, you redistribute or use license fees or how you call it,” he said.

Sharing his views on whether publishers will need to create their own walled gardens to protect against crawling or their own chatbots, Döpfner said that it is not necessary that it needs to be a walled garden, but there should be healthy competition and that between different solutions and more innovations, every publisher should be able to decide as to whether they may want to go for a walled garden because there's no one model fits all. 

“This is the moment of transatlantic cooperation of all democracies in the world which together contribute to 69% of the world’s GDP which is highly significant and if they would agree more or less on the same principles with regards to AI regulation, then I think that's a strong and a powerful case as opposed to an isolationist solution,” he said.

He also went on to suggest that media organisations should not just limit their focus on scale because in doing so, they’ll miss the real point which is the quality and relevance of their respective content because that is the distinguishing factor between the companies who are failing or being insolvent and those who are prospering.


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