Until recently, whenever someone asked me what I do for a living and I told them I’m a freelance writer, they would usually respond with something like, “Really? That’s interesting! What kind of writing do you do?”
But now when I tell people what I do, they usually respond with, “So, do you think AI copywriting is going to replace human copywriting and kill your business?” To which I reply, “Not really,” and then go on to explain why I believe this.
AI Copywriting is the Dominant Topic
Artificial intelligence, or AI, has become the dominant topic among copywriters and content creators over the past year or so. This is the main thing discussed by the newsletters and blogs I read from other freelance writers — so much so that, to be honest, I’m getting kind of tired of reading and hearing about it.
This all really took off when ChatGPT — which stands for Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer, by the way — was released last November. (I know, it seems like much longer ago than that!) Developed by OpenAI, ChatGPT uses a large language model to artificially create a wide range of different kinds of content including music and lyrics, poetry, essays, business plans and, yes, blogs and articles. AI was even used to create a new Beatles song!
When GPT-3.5 launched on November 30, 2022, it was free of charge to anyone who wanted to use it. Within two months, there were 100 million users worldwide. So in February, OpenAI launched a premium service, GPT Plus, that costs $20 per month and allows access to the new model, GPT-4. GPT-3.5 is still available for free.
SI Gets Busted
Being a big sports fan, I was intrigued when I recently heard reports that Sports Illustrated got busted using AI to write content for the magazine. I dug a little deeper and found out that these weren’t feature articles. Instead, the magazine was creating fake author pages online, along with fake bios and photos, and using AI to “write” mostly product reviews with affiliate links.
This incident kind of sums up my thoughts about AI and copywriting. ChatGPT seems to do a fine job of creating basic content, like a product review. Similarly, it does a pretty good job of creating basic blogs and articles. But these are very different from the more sophisticated content that most of the businesses and publications I work with require.
I specialize in writing financial-oriented content targeted to affluent individuals and families, as well as business-oriented content targeted to business owners, CEOs and other executives. Much of what I write requires in-depth knowledge of specific niche industries, which I have obtained over nearly 40 years of professional experience. It also requires interviews with subject matter experts who I quote in the articles.
I recently tried a little experiment. I was writing a blog for a wealth management firm about a specific tax and estate planning technique, so I thought I’d see what ChatGPT came up with before I started writing.
It was OK — in fact, better than I expected, to be honest. But to me, it was fairly obvious that it was AI-generated (yes, I knew that it was AI-generated, but I’m pretty sure I’d have spotted it even if I didn’t). Would my client have known if I’d just sent them the ChatGPT article? I’m almost sure they would have.
Note that this article didn’t require any interviews, which I can’t see ChatGPT being about to do anytime soon, if ever. It was also a fairly common topic that didn’t require as much knowledge and sophistication as most of what I write.
Where AI Copywriting Works … and Where It Doesn’t
Here’s my bottom-line take on AI copywriting: It’s probably fine for generating blogs and articles on basic topics that don’t require in-depth knowledge or interviewing subject matter experts. But it can’t write the kind of high-end, thought-provoking content that most financial services firms, B2B marketers and financial industry publications require.
Given this, I see AI as a major threat to freelancers who are writing basic, bare-bones content that doesn’t require much more than a Google search. These writers need to ramp up their knowledge and skill level and find a profitable niche or start looking for another career — because marketers can already get this kind of content from ChatGPT for free.
Could AI create the kind of high-level content that financial and B2B marketers pay experienced specialists like me to write one day in the future? Maybe, I guess, though it’s hard for me to envision this right now, at least in my working lifetime.
In the meantime, I’ll keep bringing the human touch to every blog, article, whitepaper and other piece of content I create for my clients.