German tabloid cuts jobs in favour of AI

Bild, the largest-selling newspaper in Europe has announced cuts of €100m and an estimated 200 jobs, with further cuts to come as it explores ‘the opportunities of artificial intelligence.’ 

Publisher Axel Springer SE told the Guardian that the redundancies are part of a wider reorganisation of Bild’s regional newspaper business and not related to AI. Yet rival Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper, or FAZ, shared excepts from an email sent to all staff on Bild that said the publisher would, ‘unfortunately be parting ways with colleagues who have tasks that in the digital world are performed by AI and/or automated processes.’

Business newspaper article 

The cuts will see see two-thirds of regional offices close, with regional editions reduced from 18 to 12. Of course, print media has been suffering in recent years with steep declines in circulation. Statistica reported earlier this year on declines in UK publications. City AM saw a drop of 25% in 2021-22, and the Daily Mail 10% in the same period. The Guardian reports that Bild had a circulation of just more than 1m last year, down from 4.5m two decades ago. 

Such declines impact revenue from advertising, which in turn impacts budgets for news. 

Publishers are therefore having to look for ways to save money. Earlier this year, Mathias Döpfner, chief executive of Axel Springer SE, said that the company planned to become a purely digital company, ending the printed version of the paper. Indeed, the recent email to staff on Bild said that many print roles such as editors and proofreaders will no longer continue in their present form. 

There’s a sense here of a vicious circle: newspaper circulation is down, so publishers increasingly cut costs and move to digital, which leads to further decline in print media.  

We can understand the appeal of AI in this context. Automating the ways that news is written, edited and published has the potential to save money. But this is also controversial and may prove more expensive in the long run. 

Human journalists and editors are well aware of the well-established laws on plagiarism and defamation – that is, copying someone else’s work or publishing false statements that damage a person’s reputation. If such cases go to court, they can end up being very expensive. That’s something AI and its proponents may yet have to learn. 

At the beginning of this year, news outlet CNET admitted to having to make ‘substantial’ corrections to stories generated by its ‘internally designed AI engine’. As well as factual errors, one correction was made to, ‘phrases that were not entirely original’. 

In April, Brian Hood, the mayor of Hepburn Shire in Australia, threatened to sue OpenAI over false claims invented by the AI chatbot ChatGPT that he’d served time in prison for bribery. In May, ‘Godfather of AI’ Geoffrey Hinton quit his role Google with the stark warning that false information from AI presents an ‘existential threat’ to us all. will report on developments in this area. Unless we’re replaced by machines.

Photo by AbsolutVision


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