Why the AI writing robots will not replace us (yet)
OK, I know you're saying to yourself, 'Of course you would say that, Vanessa. Your livelihood depends on writing, so if a robot can do it, why does anyone need your services?"
First of all, how dare you.
Secondly, you're absolutely right.
If these copywriting automatons replace us lowly freelancers, we'll be out of a job, and we’ll have no platform for our rambling, self-important blog posts.
Anyway, I digress.
The other day this ad popped up in my newsfeed:
I always *love* seeing just how low-ball organizations (and freelancers) can go with pricing for their copywriting services.
This one doesn't even bother with the traditional cost-per-word approach but skips right to cost-per-article at a very down-and-dirty $0.04 per piece.
I am curious about what kind of powerful, moving prose you can get yourself for less than a nickel. Intrigued, I click the ad.
Side note: I'm going to assume they used their AI technology to write the copy for this ad, which is why the word 'headline' is included in the headline. Great stuff.
I get to the landing page and the gist is that you can use this tech, based on Elon Musk's OpenAI Project, to do all your writing work for you, producing unique articles on a myriad of subjects without having to deal with any pesky humans.
I scroll through the rest of the page and the writing is completely devoid of life (because, you know, a robot probably wrote it).
Then we get to this and my heart breaks:
Exqueeze me? Says who?
Guess you decided the old 'quality over quantity' adage needed a little update, huh?
I understand this technology serves a niche market - organizations that want LOTS of content to generate LOTS of traffic who aren't concerned about quality, content strategy, their customers, etc.
Regardless, in the name of science, I sign up for a free three-day trial.
The first thing I do is choose to have five articles written on the topic of dogs because, well, dogs, and it immediately spits out five articles. That part is certainly impressive.
Note that I cannot provide any further instructions on what I want these articles to cover - just DOGS.
These are the blog post titles:
I feel like I'm pretty knowledgeable about dog stuff (I have a three-year-old mini-golden doodle) but I have never heard the term Hyperkies. I click to be enlightened.
The article mimics the traditional format of a blog (in that it includes words, sentences and paragraphs) but the language is truly bizarre.
I couldn't find anything on Google about Hyperkies (which does indeed beg the question of whether they exist, so A+ on the blog title).
But this whole piece is almost Kafkaesque in its absurdity. If you read each sentence, not one of them makes any sense.
‘Hyperkies are the white golden retriever of the dog world’.
I thought golden retrievers were the golden retrievers of the dog world?
‘Even those who like these dogs are unsure they exist.’
‘They are undoubtedly amazing and sweet, but ARE THEY?’
Think you just doubted yourself there, my friend.
That's only the FIRST paragraph of this 900-word article. I'm not sure anything in here was even remotely informative. The rest of the blog posts are equally bad - even the headlines don't make any sense.
‘Dog treats - do they mean doggie treats?’
I mean, a dog and a doggie are the same thing, so the answer is yes. Does it really justify a 1,000-word article?
I know the people who use this service are not parsing these articles like I am. Chances are they aren’t even reading them. So, again, I realize I am not this company's target audience.
However, I think back to their selling points on the landing page and remember this little ironic gem:
BLOOD MONEY! LOL. Oh, sweet child, if you only knew.
I know AI will become even more intelligent over time. I have no doubt that these articles will become more sophisticated, more polished, develop a tone of voice and provide content that's of value. I'm under no illusions that this won’t happen one day and largely replace the services that someone like me offers.
But then we get to this piece:
And this is the crux of the entire service. You don't have to deal with a human. Their annoying ‘wants’ and ‘needs’. Their request for time off to improve their mental health or hang out with friends and family.
The truth is, we're already weeding out the need for humans to perform tasks at an alarming rate (if you haven't watched CGP Grey's Humans Need Not Apply, prepare yourself for a very depressing 15 minutes).
Here’s my take: a robot will never be able to truly get to know your business (to be honest, they're not even very good at understanding dogs).
If you want powerful, compelling copy that informs your audience and urges them to take action, I believe robots will now - and possibly forever - fall flat.
I interview my clients and ask questions to get to the heart of why they do what they do and how they help their clients and customers.
I'm an active listener. I can translate what they're saying into clear and concise language. I can reframe their points into actionable copy.
I have EQ and I can hear what they aren't saying. I can prod further with follow-up questions. I can find out what their strengths and weaknesses are.
And I can do this not because I'm necessarily a great writer, but because I am human.
I am not afraid of automation or robots. I believe they will - and already do - have a very important role to play in our lives and in how we run our businesses.
But I do not believe an AI algorithm can produce the same kind of impactful content as a human writer.
At least, not yet.
*I've removed the company and product name because I ain't here to shame anyone.