AI Content is Not Short-Term Arbitrage

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Whether you like it or not, AI is going to change the way we create content.

Recently, there has been a flood of naysayers who claim that AI-generated content is short-term arbitrage. Like this article:

I have a lot of respect for Rayan, but he is taking a too narrow view of the potential of AI-generated content.

Content was never the moat

First, let's address the Elephant in the room: your writing style is not a moat. Even with today's capabilities, given sufficient amount of direction, AI can mimic your writing style to a T. The moat has always been the data and unique insights. The content is just a way to get the data and insights to the users. This will remain true even when AI-generated content becomes the norm.

The real-question is whether AI-generated content can produce unique insights and data. The answer is yes, but not yet. We are getting there.

Short-term arbitrage

It is hard to talk about AI content without mentioning the recent "penalization" of websites that used AI-generated content. The "SEO heist" is one that got the most attention for both the rapid rise and fall of the website. So let's talk about it.

Every single instance of websites getting "penalized" for use of AI content happened in the context of outputting thousands of articles, getting a temporary boost, and then sinking. This comes as no surprise. Google publicly disclosed that they use multi-model evaluation algos to establish how to rank content. The first stage is the naive/cheap algo that basically gives any website the benefit of doubt. I suppose at the time they never expected anyone to be adding thousands of articles... well those thousands of articles are getting the benefit of doubt across many keywords. However, no surprise that once we enter verification stage (which includes broader spectrum of variables, including bounce rate, time on site, backlinks and whatnot) the websites tank. So... don't do that. Build organically over time.

Related, contrary to what everyone on Reddit will want you to think, no one at Google is manually penalizing your website just because your tweet goes viral talking about how you came to top using AI. And if they do, you will be notified of it through Google Search Console Manual Action report, but the reason won't be "because you've used AI".

Just based on common sense, Google wants only 3 things out of your-content:

  1. factually accurate content
  2. unique insights or new data points
  3. recognized by users to be valuable [based on engagement, backlinks, etc]

Achieve these 3 things and it won't matter whether you use USD 100/hour copywriter, USD 15/hour copywriter, or AI.

The state of AI content generation

Most "AI content generators" are not yet where they would tick all 3 boxes, esp. if we compare to a good human copywriter. However, even if we are not there yet, we will be there very soon. Like, within 12 months at most. Not because of advancements in Large Language Models (LLMs) to be clear. I think LLMs are already there. What needs to catch up is orchestration of content generation.

LLMs are already very capable of text analyzes and even making logical conclusions based on provided data. They are good at narrative telling. They are good at spotting logical inconsistencies, etc.

What they are not good at is doing all of this in one-go. The statistical model just doesn't have the capability to think this far ahead or correct itself after output has been sent to users. This is why Retrieval-Augmented Generation (RAG) and multi-stage output generation is necessary to produce something that resembles human-level output.

Just to give a high-level idea, AIMD uses 20+ different APIs to:

  1. research the topic
  2. identify the most important data points about the topic
  3. aggregate supporting data
  4. validate the data

All of this work is done before even starting to write the outline of the article. These APIs include Google Search Console, "people also ask", keyword research tools, and many more.

I am intentionally being vague about the APIs used beyond the obvious ones, because I don't want to give away the secret sauce.

And then when it starts writing, it keeps fact checking everything that is written in the context of the greater article. And then when it is done, it goes through each section again looking for logical inconsistencies, style inconsistencies, etc.

The biggest downside of this approach is that:

  1. it takes a long time to generate article
  2. costs a lot more
  3. a lot more unstable (many things tend to break when talking with so many services)

But all of 3 of those problems are solvable. So it is just a matter of time.

How to spot bad AI content generator?

I curated a list of AI content generators that are currently available. I have 25 on the list at the moment, and I keep a close eye on all of them.

Without even looking at the output, the biggest tell-tale sign of a bad AI content generator are:

  • real-time output - if the output is streamed
  • cheap price – if you are paying less than ~1 USD per article
  • fast output – if the output is generated in a few minutes

If either of these 3 are true, then you are likely just paying for a ChatGPT wrapper. You get what you pay for.

Not surprisingly, the content produced using zero-shot approach is going to include logical inconsistencies, style inconsistencies, and factual inaccuracies. It is not going to be able to reference its sources or make compelling arguments.

Just as a benchmark, I am working really hard to get AIMD to produce articles in under 10 minutes. And I am not there yet. The data queries alone take a good chunk of time. The first draft is usually reduced by good ~40-60% just for the sake of fact checking and logical consistency. And then it goes through few more iterations of fact checking and logical consistency checks.

To be clear, I am not making a claim that is there yet. I believe AIMD is the most advanced AI content generator out there, but even then you would be shooting yourself in the foot if you were to use its output without human editorial. However, I am confident that we will be there within 12 months and that then the moat will be the unique data and perspectives that you can provide to the AI, and not the "packaging" of the content.