Home WallStreetWindow Is Retiring As A News Website As Big Tech Turns More Authoritarian With “AI”

WallStreetWindow Is Retiring As A News Website As Big Tech Turns More Authoritarian With “AI”

In Michael Mann’s 1981 movie Thief, the James Caan character comes to the decision to burn his bar and car dealership businesses down, because he cannot deal with some nasty mafia goons who are trying force him to work for them forever. I’ve been trading in the markets now for 25 years and running this WallStreetWindow website for over 20 years. When it comes to creating content on the internet, I have come to feel like the Caan’s Thief character, thanks to Google’s deployment of so-called “AI.”

Don’t worry, I’m not blowing up this website, but I’m doing something that is close to it.

I’m not a fan of Tesla robot cars, crypto, CGI superhero movies, or this “AI” gizmo.

I haven’t said anything about the latter, but today I will, because it has made me come to a big decision.

Everyone is hyping it up, and the creators and people behind it have been telling people things like it poses an existential threat to humanity and must be controlled, while they develop it at the same time, to make you ignore what they are really doing with it right now.

They are playing a game with you.

It is not a threat to humanity like that and it has no thinking ability or intelligence to it.

This “AI” is not HAL 2000 or Skynet, but the people behind it and those that push it may be just as evil.

At the same time that they introduced it, they got millions of people to play with it, so they would think it’s fun and accept it, in the guise of chatbots and programs that will create graphics for you, and write for you.

They hid it’s true purpose from you.

That purpose is to allow the big tech companies to steal and rip off the content created by others and then regurgitate it back to people as their own, often without even sourcing where it came from.

It is all about more big tech control over you and several big tech companies have taken confrontational stances towards various online publishing sites and news organizations of various kinds in the past twelve months.

Twitter, or X as Elon now calls it, did this, for example when he blocked Substack links from his social media site and then banished Matt Taibbi for a period of time from it.

Facebook has downgraded news sites in its feed slowly over the past twelve months. Now, next time you load up Facebook go through the feed and examine it closely and you’ll notice that you’ll see less content from pages and people that you follow and more that their algorithm decides will keep you on the site. Fewer real people are posting on the site and that’s why you see less of your “friends” content on it anymore and more of this seemingly random stuff.

And now some are using “AI” to hurt websites.

This is from Futurism:

“Adweek reports that Google is paying a select group of publishers to quietly test a secretive generative AI platform designed to produce news articles. Per the agreement, Adweek writes, “the publishers are expected to use the suite of tools to produce a fixed volume of content for 12 months” in exchange for a “monthly stipend amounting to a five-figure sum annually.”……

……According to Adweek, the in-beta AI tool allows “under-resourced publishers” to “create aggregated content more efficiently by indexing recently published reports generated by other organizations, like government agencies and neighboring news outlets, and then summarizing and publishing them as a new article.”

In other words, they are paying a few selected publishing companies big money to repackage (do you call it steal?) the content of other companies.

It’s time for people to push back.

Some major newspapers, including the New York Times, and a group of papers owned by Alden Global Capital, are suing Open AI and Microsoft for intellectual property theft. The lawsuit states that the “AI” tools were used to create articles that stripped away all attribution and ripped off millions of copyrighted articles.

Last year, Quora, Amazon, and Indeed.com blocked AI bots from reading their websites.

However, the Financial Times and Associated Press have accepted millions in annual payment to allow the “AI” bot companies to use their articles as sources for new “AI” content.

The head of the News/Media alliance, gave a talk in which he stated, “we undertook a study that we submitted to the Department of Justice that provides ample evidence of the direct nexus between Big Tech’s anticompetitive conduct and the harm to publishers — the anticompetitive conduct in search, exorbitant fees, thwarting of competition, ad tech taking of up to 70% and the list goes on. With AI, this is an exacerbation of an existing problem. Using publishers’ real-time content through a process known as ‘grounding’ or ‘RAG,’ Retrieval Augmented Generation, could satisfy search queries that would obviate users’ need to click through. This could very likely eviscerate our industry. We are calling on lawmakers once again to counter these anticompetitive tactics.”

An article titled Artificial Intelligence is stealthily altering how news is made and how the public finds information, used the experience of Jennifer Bertetto, the CEO of Pittsburgh based Trib Total Media, to describe how this works for the user:

“She recounted the story of a baby alligator named Neo who’d made a home in the Kiski River. Neo was discovered in the late autumn, and collectively the community worried if he could survive the winter. Miraculously, he did, and in mid-February, he was captured and rehomed to a sanctuary. Sadly, two weeks later, there was a catastrophic fire there, and he perished. The community mourned.”

“Trib Total Media’s newsroom followed Neo’s story from first sighting to its sad conclusion. Bertetto was thinking about AI search and Neo, and late one night, she typed “Neo the alligator” into Google’s AI prompt field. The overview produced everything there was to know about Neo’s brief life; however, no part of the search result identified the source of the story — TribLIVE.”

“‘That was our story. We own that story,” Bertetto said. “But we were nowhere to be seen. It also highlighted to me that when people receive a generative AI search result, that’s enough. They don’t need to keep scrolling down the page to see the news results. They don’t need to go past that, ‘ Bertetto said.”

And that means they don’t need to go to the website and the more they do it the more dependent on Google and other “AI” apps in their life they will become. For many, activating their phone and asking for “Siri” or saying “Hey Google” will feel as comforting as asking a parent, or another human, for help.

I decided to see for myself how this worked and grabbed my phone and opened it up to Google and typed in some questions in what I always have thought of as the search bar.

I asked what are the odds of hitting blackjack?

Google AI told me, so I had no reason to go to the website it used to get the answer to my question.

I also asked it what is the inflation rate?

Then I wondered what it would do if I asked it who an obscure, seemingly random, historical figure was.

In the past, Google would put such a person’s Wikipedia entry up at the top of the results, so you would go to their website, or one below it, if you thought the information would be better, to find out what you were looking for.

And I also wondered what it would say if I asked it who I was….

Incredibly, this website was pushed down the list of rankings.

So far, there has been no move by Congress since I first got on the internet to push back against big tech, and it’s hard to believe one will really come.

In fact, as the Financial Times and Associated Press deals show, some giant publishers are more than willing to do deals with big tech against the rest of the news industry, so they can weaponize a segment of the industry against the rest of it.

Internet apps in authoritarian states work with the government approved entities.

In my experience, 2016 marked a turning point for the internet as it marked the mass adoption of Facebook and social people. Now we are at another such evolution.

“In the last month, I have come to the realization that AI will not only impact our industry in journalism, but it’s going to have a rippling effect across our entire social structure,” said the head of Wick Communications, a news organization that operates in eleven states.

What is clear, is that I do not believe the idea of expecting a website to generate revenue by allowing bots to find the articles and bring traffic to it is viable anymore.

The writing is on the wall.

If you have a website then you must decide what you want to do.

About ten years ago I was making over $1500 a month from Google Adsense and would get over 1,000 hits from its search engines and “Google News” every single day. In 2016, after the Trump election, some strange article by an outfit called “Prop or Not” listed around 100 alternative news websites as somehow under Russian control. The Washington Post did a story on it, making it sound credible, agreeing that the sites were all “fake news.” My website wasn’t listed, but dozens of “alternative” financial websites such as Zerohedge were, and at least one person whose articles I have republished on my site was, which was insane. Some of the sites listed were Ron Paul, Lew Rockwell, and Consortium News.

It was all absurd.

But, almost instantly, after that articles publication, the traffic to my website coming from Google SEO fell by 50% and that from Google News went to zero. I could still see my site appear in Google News, but got no traffic anymore from it. It seemed like a shadow ban.

Then in a few months all of a sudden a new outfit called Newsbreak starting to send me traffic, sometimes thousands of hits a day.

They were a new app that was linking to my articles directly.

After a year, though, they suddenly stopped doing that.

It turned out to be a bait and switch, where they want creators, and news organizations, to write directory for them instead of directly linking to their sites.

I looked at my traffic stats a week ago and discovered that I am now getting only 20 to 30 hits a day from Google and $200 a month from the Adwords ads. My traffic from them is now down about 90% from where it was twelve months ago.

Over the past twelve months there has been a collapse in the traffic going to news websites from Google and Facebook.

One article about this, published at OutsidetheBeltway.com, has this graphic:

A media journal, reports that across the board news sites have seen a 48% drop in Facebook traffic and 27% from Twitter in 2023, and one out of five of them are now cutting costs.

One way to put it – Google and these companies used to pay publishers and content creators a nickel or a dime on the dollar for their content and now they want to pay a penny or nothing at all, and basically just keep all of the money.

The practices of big tech has changed from a partnership with websites and publishers – the websites create the content and they send traffic and actually incentivize people into making good content for them – to one of belligerence. They want to keep users on their own platform and AI is simply a way to take the content created by others and feed it back to their users, often without sourcing or attribution. The Associated Press is being paid to help ChatGTP generate its results, but do the users of it know that?

In Canada, the META company blocked Facebook from linking to Canadian news websites for a period of time when Canadian the parliament was considering a bill that would regulate them.

Google has just done that in the state of California and in February actually took away from its navbar for a short-period of time the search results “News” tab – a clear message and warning to those operating and owning news websites.

Back in the day, when Google just came online, there was a trend in the internet world of “article marketing.”

To get search engine traffic to websites people were writing articles and submitting them to websites.

Someone came up with a way to “spin” the articles, so you could make one article and hundreds of unique variations of it, by creating a few different versions of each paragraph.

There was one website, ezinearticles.com, devoted just to storing these articles, and over time the quality of these articles simply degraded and degraded. The site was once of the top 100 websites on the internet in terms of traffic.

Spun variations of the same thing just turn out to become worse and worse content.

That’s one thing “AI” is going to mean for the internet.

The WSJ did a recent investigative story, which showed that for just a few hundred dollars anyone can set up a website of their own that just generates “AI” news articles on any topic for you.

Two paragraphs from it:

“It took me two days, $105 and no expertise whatsoever to launch a fully automated, AI-generated local news site capable of publishing thousands of articles a day—with the partisan news coverage framing of my choice, nearly all rewritten without credit from legitimate news sources. I created a website specifically designed to support one political candidate against another in a real race for the U.S. Senate. And I made it all happen in a matter of hours.”

“With OpenAI’s ChatGPT and a few lines of code, developers on freelancer websites such as Fiverr.com—the site I used to find my developer—can program websites to autonomously rewrite and publish articles from mainstream news outlets according to specific political preferences. Within a few weeks, I could even start earning programmatic ad revenue from my partisan AI content farm.”

What will happen when more and more of these websites are created and people are using their “AI” to make articles off of what are already generated “AI” articles?

You are going to end up with a ton of total garbage on the internet, as if it isn’t bad enough already.

And Google and these big tech companies don’t care, because all they want is more control of people’s time on the internet and to take all the money. If it means less human creativity for dependence on the machine, so be it, as this ad from Apple this week implies. Watch the ad and listen to the lyrics.

What is sad, is if people come to perceive most websites as garbage content in general than they will simply rely on the Google “AI” even more, even if it isn’t so great.

I subscribe to various media industry publications and the consensus view I am reading of what has happened is, as an AdExChanger article put it, “publishers can build a strong business model on what’s good for Google, Apple and Meta – until working with publishers no longer works for those platforms.”

The solution they advocate is to give up on big tech and somehow “turn inward.”

The leading newspaper industry journal Editor and Publisher, meanwhile, argues that local news outlets need to create websites that won’t depend on Google or social sites for traffic, but will by themselves be such great resources of information for their community that people will regularly come to them on their own.

That’s a tough thing to do when most people are so addicted to various social platforms that they don’t want to stop using them, while younger people are now saying they use Tiktok for news more than anything else. Yep, you heard that right. According to a Pew poll, one third of all people under 30 say that its is their main source of news. That is the world big tech has created. But, in general, the idea that content creators and news sites must free themselves one way or the from Google and the other big tech companies is the right direction to go.

This means that WallStreetWindow is retiring as a news website.

I’m simply going to send out my own thoughts and articles straight to people via email.

So, they’ll need to subscribe to my email list instead of just go to my website to read what I have to say.

I’m going to put this up as a single post on the home page of WallStreetWindow for a few weeks, as a notice, and then simply turn that home page into nothing, but a place to subscribe to the email list.

I am likely to archive all of my posts in a few months and block all future posts from the bots.

I do not want to make content for them anymore.

I’m not doing that yet, because I’m looking at different options first, but I’ll make some change in a few months.

I do not want to make content for them anymore.

In a way, I’m going back to when I started.

Way back in 1999 I had my first financial website.

All it consisted of was a single page to opt-in to my email list and there weren’t even any archived posts/emails on the website.

To read my thoughts you had to read your email and that’s how it is going to be again.

To subscribe to the email list just click here.

So to summarize:

WallStreetWindow.com is retiring today as a news website and it’s been online since 2003.

Here’s an Internet Archive screenshot of it back in 2004 – twenty years ago.

The basic idea for the site has remained the same since the day it went online until this moment.

The deployment of “AI” against websites means no more.

To communicate my thoughts on the markets I’m going to focus on the people who are already subscribing to my email list.

So, to keep up with my thoughts on the markets, if you aren’t already on my email list then just join it.

To subscribe to the email list just click here.