Why readers are telling us they want humans, not AI, reporting the news

Why readers are telling us they want humans, not AI, reporting the news

Most people think there should be an AI Blackout ahead of the UK general election. It is essential that efforts are made to safeguard the quality and accuracy of news reporting.

There is a danger that, as a nation, we are sleepwalking into a world where our views are shaped by systems rather than people.

Within the media industry, there have been many discussions around the benefits and challenges Artificial Intelligence will bring, particularly its impact on the logistics of creating vast amounts of online content. However, there are many questions around reader attitudes and preferences too.

AI restrictions wanted

The two key questions are:

  • How much do we know about AI and its ability to create content that sits next to human journalism?
  • How much do we care? Are we optimistic about AI’s ability to create diverse and rich content for each reader, or is there a sense of foreboding around machine written content and its impact on readers?

Newsworks’ research has found that while half the population are familiar with the concept of Artificial Intelligence producing online content, they remain (74%) unsure whether they could identify AI content if they saw it.

There are certainly recognised benefits to AI-generating news content — and young people 18-24 are notably more positive about these benefits than older cohorts.

But, overall, the feeling is that AI will have a negative impact on the online content the UK reads.  

Specific concerns focus on the accuracy (44%) and the quality (41%) of AI-generated content. With both a UK and a US election scheduled for next year, these are considerable concerns for the media industry. Indeed, nearly two thirds (64%) of the UK believe AI-generated content would increase the risk of misinformation ahead of a future political election, rising to 73% of those aged over 55.

When our research asked whether there should be an enforced ‘Artificial Intelligence Blackout’ a few months ahead of a UK general election, 62% agreed and only 14% were opposed. The UK is acutely aware of the influence online content has in shaping the structures of power in the country, and it is essential that efforts are made to safeguard the quality and accuracy of news reporting.  

As such, Newsworks’ research found that UK would like to see tighter regulations around AI-generated content. 86% believe we should have guidelines or regulations in place, and a similar figure feel that online content that is wholly or partly written by AI should be marked as such.   

Readers want humans to write ‘the first draft of history’

It has never been so important for advertisers to invest and therefore protect quality, accurate journalism.

Trust is a quality that all brands try to achieve, and it has become an increasingly important metric that impacts a campaign’s profitability and contribution to market share growth. News brands provide a trusted context for advertising and Newsworks’ research into effectiveness has proven that when companies advertise with news brands, both in print and online, markers of trust, including familiarity, brand fame and competence, all rise versus a non-news brand site.  

The context of a trusted news brand matters hugely for brands; advertisers benefit from the trusted halo effect that news brand content delivers. It is paramount therefore to keep that trust with readers, to ensure they know who has created and edited the content they read. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of us would prefer to read content written by a human. Readers don’t want to see the human role in journalism removed because of the power and value we place in human creativity and judgement.

After all, we turn to the news, and therefore trusted journalism, for that first draft of history or for that first opinion of original thinking. AI, on the other hand, can only create from content that has come before.  

But for this humble article, rest assured these words, flawed as they are, were very much written by a human.  

Heather Dansie is insight director at Newsworks  

Newsworks commissioned a Onepoll survey with a UK national representative sample of 2000 people during 10-16th October 2023.


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