Contentions: What A.I. will not disrupt in marketing, editing, and writing

Some friends of mine have recently asked me, “What do you think of A.I.’s implications for your field of work?”

I work professionally in marketing, editing, and writing. I also wrote a book, and I write every day at my blog

My initial response was to discuss the difference between text generation and writing, though I’d definitely propose that many people working as content marketers, editors, and writers will need to get familiar with A.I. tools. (I’ve dabbled in A.I. since 2021.) 

The notion that people won’t get replaced with A.I., but people who work with A.I., rings true in each of these fields.

Still, comparing generating text with A.I. to writing is similar to comparing chefing and cooking machines like the Thermomix. You’ll still get to eat food, but it’s an entirely different process and experience.

I recently came across Kent Beck’s hypothesis after trying ChatGPT, “The value of 90% of my skills just dropped to $0. The leverage for the remaining 10% went up 1000x. I need to recalibrate.” He elaborated on this in an essay about it here, which was curious; particularly, “I do not have the answer for which skills are in the 90% & which are in the 10%.” 

In marketing, I believe a large part of the 10% will involve taste. While there may be a few objectively best ways to write code, there are numerous best ways to do marketing, editing, and writing. Billy Oppenheimer’s insight, “The tools will no doubt get better at pulling relevant quotes. But I’m less confident they’ll ever solve the perennial mysteries of taste and discernment.” 

As for me, I have some starting points of what I believe will still be worth a lot in marketing, editing, and writing, and what will be worth more:

Creative direction and brand. Both of these rely on tasteful repetition. Deciding what to say, when to say it, and how to say it, will be more valuable than before. Similarly, deciding what not to do will be more valuable.  Are you gonna have your A.I. write another post defining “cheugy” or “riz”? Where will that get you? 

Content strategy. This is the umbrella term for identifying story opportunities, as well as the overlooked craft of promoting work, getting people to read, building relationships with readers, featuring people (permissionless co-marketing), etc. It requires constantly surfing the waves of social media, and translating ideas into different modalities and platforms. The taste and judgement to make these decisions well will increase in value.

Art direction. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard, “Wow, that’s a beautiful cover,” for Creative Doing, and the number of times cover art got more attention than the article itself, or even a headline. That’s not a bad thing inherently, that’s just how the chips are falling—people don’t have enough time to read.

Audience development. Knowing what your audience wants; perhaps being a part of the audience and participating in the community. Building relationships with people. This will increase in value.

Developmental editing will be much more valuable. With the increase in text generation, editing will be the next bottleneck for people. In particular, developmental editing will need to take place with a person, not an A.I. tool. Similarly, punching up voice and tone will also be more valuable—it adds the human touch. Rewriting will be more valuable.

Conversely, I am absolutely certain that there are ways for each person in these fields to use A.I. to augment their skills or work as research or collaborative partners in each of these skills.

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