The A.I. doomsday clock appears ready to strike midnight for publishers.

Google announced on Tuesday that it will infuse its ubiquitous search engine with its powerful artificial intelligence model, Gemini. Drawing on rapidly advancing technology, Gemini will directly answer user queries at the top of results pages.

The company explained, “Google will do the Googling for you.” In other words, users will soon no longer have to click on the links displayed in search results to find the information they are seeking.


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On its surface that might sound convenient, but for news publishers — many of whom are already struggling with steep traffic declines — the revamped search experience will likely cause an even further decrease in audience, potentially starving them of readers and revenue. Why click on a link when Google has already scoured the internet and harvested the relevant information with its A.I.?

“Google will take care of the legwork,” executives said. But a lot of that legwork comes in the form of human-written articles and expertise published across the internet on blogs and media outlets, all built on a foundation of advertising support.

Google’s message was heard loud and clear. The news industry began sounding the alarm within hours of the Mountain View announcement.

“This will be catastrophic to our traffic, as marketed by Google to further satisfy user queries, leaving even less incentive to click through so that we can monetize our content,” Danielle Coffey, the chief executive of the News/Media Alliance, bluntly told CNN.

Coffey, whose organization represents more than 2,000 news publishers and has taken an aggressive posture toward A.I. developers’ use of journalism, added: “The little traffic we get today will be further diminished, and with a dominant search engine that’s cementing its market power, we once again have to adhere to their terms.

This time with a product that directly competes with our content, using our content to fuel it. This is a perverse twist on ‘innovation.’” The announcement from Google, which newsrooms had expected and expressed worry over in both public and private forums in recent months, is poised to batter further an industry that has been dealt a series of brutal blows — much of it at the hands of Big Tech — over the last several years. It also comes as OpenAI reportedly readies to launch its A.I.-powered search engine.

Since ChatGPT crashed onto the scene more than a year ago, showcasing the potential power of A.I. for the public and setting off an arms race with Google, Meta, and others, publishers have worried greatly about the impact the technology will ultimately have on their businesses. But given the breakneck pace in which it has developed, they have had little time to plan their responses to the transformative technology.