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CMSWire's customer experience (CXM) channel gathers the latest news, advice and analysis about the evolving landscape of customer-first marketing, commerce and digital experience design.
AI writing software has more capabilities and use cases than ever before — especially when it comes to auto-generating content. As such, marketing departments and content writers have started using these tools to automate production and reach their digital marketing goals.
However, even with the progression of these tools, they are not a flawless solution. 
For that reason, this article covers the challenges associated with this technology as the second installment of our miniseries on AI writing software for marketing. This way, you get a clearer understanding of these tools and what to expect when using them. We covered the basics of AI writing in Part 1 of the series.
AI writing is a polarizing topic — especially among the digital marketing and writing industries. One of the biggest concerns in these communities is the threat AI writing software poses to writing-focused professions. 
And for good reason! 
If businesses can cut costs by replacing human writers with AI, what’s stopping them? Alexander Lewis, freelance writer and founder of Lewis Commercial Writing, comments:
 “What I discovered is that AI writers are decent aids when it comes to outlining articles or coming up with one-off headline alternatives… But if you're looking for AI to capture what people love about good writing and copywriting — stories, big original ideas, and so on — then these tools fall short.” 
Let’s discuss four reasons why these AI writing tools fall short:
While AI writing software accesses billions of webpages to deliver relevant content, it cannot form original opinions, insights or conclusions.
Robert Zeglinski, managing editor and researcher at BreakingMuscle, says, "AI copywriting tools are impressive, but they're not innovative. It's a machine. They eat human-written articles and content to create something fresh. AI tools create fantastic copy, but new doesn't mean original.”
So, it might be best to step away from the AI writing tool if you’re working on thought-leadership pieces, niche content, technical articles or if you have expertise in a subject. This way, you can craft high-quality, original content full of examples, expert advice, data and more. 
Related Article: AI Writing Software for Marketing: The Basics, Part 1
These tools tend to struggle with complex and technical long-form content — often leading to repetitive or factually wrong articles. Pooja Seshadri, marketing associate at Narrato, explains:
 “There are still limitations to AI writing tools, especially when it comes to creating long-form content… There are times when your AI writing tool will produce nonsensical and repetitive content. For this reason, it’s important for a writer to edit and improve the natural flow of writing in the content.” 
Instead of auto-generating your entire long-form post, try going paragraph by paragraph, as this gives you more control over the direction of the tool. Or, simply use the AI tool to fill in any gaps after you’ve written the article. 
It’s important to note that not all AI writing software is up-to-date on current events. For instance, Jasper’s AI model completed its data training at the end of 2019. According to the company, “That means Jasper doesn't know about current events from January 2020 and beyond. Jasper doesn't know COVID-19 happened.”
This doesn’t necessarily mean these applications are useless to those covering cutting-edge topics. But, you’ll have to do extra work to make sure your piece is relevant and accurate. This means either including up-to-date information and a summary on the topic when you give the software direction. Or, adding and editing the AI’s finished piece — which could lead to longer production time. 
Related Article: The Case for Artificial Intelligence in Content Marketing Use Cases
AI writing tools help craft articles that appeal to your target audience in terms of tone of voice. However, this software cannot replicate content that targets your customer’s specific pain points, needs, preferences and behaviors — as these details are unique to every business. 
As a result, the AI is not capable of truly understanding your audience like you are. So, instead of generating content that converts, it will likely produce content that leads to a high bounce rate.
As you can see, AI writing is constantly progressing. But as of now, the technology is not sophisticated enough to fully replace human writers. And most of these tools aren’t created with the purpose of fully replacing copywriters. Instead, use both these resources to achieve your marketing goals and scale your digital marketing efforts. 
Want to see it in action? The next article in this series will give you practical examples and tips straight from marketers and business leaders.
Kim Sayers has been a content creator for over 4 years — writing for small businesses, specifically focusing on marketing, sales, and communication. She works with telecom experts at Global Call Forwarding to gain insights into how businesses can use communication tools to effectively run their business.

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The new model is designed to offer a “contextual, connected and continuous” learning environment to help marketers better embed what they are taught.
Marketing Week sister brand Econsultancy has launched a training model to help marketers bridge the skills gap between digital marketing and ecommerce.
The Multi-Touch Learning model has been designed to improve the learning and development process, with a combination of on-demand learning, digital skills assessments and team training.
It allows marketers to access practical skills in the context of their day job to help people put what they are taught into practice more easily. The learning model follows research by Econsultancy that shows 86% of marketers find on-the-job learning more useful than other more formal ways of learning, such as a university degree.
Econsultancy has identified 1,390 skills categories across multiple topics that marketers must understand to be able to perform most effectively. As the new model is designed to be contextual, connected and always-on, it is hoped marketers will be able to better keep on top of all the latest developments via up to date and practical lessons.
From structured, personalised, cloud-based courses to team-based learning and snackable ‘in the flow’ quick access answers to real life questions, Econsultancy believes the model provides multiple ways for marketers to access and embed learning.
The Multi-Touch model includes five key elements:
Richard Breeden, managing director at Econsultancy, says: “The old training model is no longer effective for modern day marketers constantly having to adapt to a rapidly changing landscape.
“Our model creates a contextual, connected and continuous experience which delivers up to date and practical learning. We’ve built on our unique heritage to create a learning model that will help CMOs globally develop their marketing capabilities and drive growth.”
Unilever’s top marketer Conny Braams says marketers must be given the opportunity to use their new skills on the job immediately or training will be wasted.
Looking to kick off a “skills revolution”, Burghart says the government is making apprenticeships more flexible to reflect modern employment and pledges to address the bureaucracy involved.
With a third of marketers saying their business is looking to fill a data and analytics skills gap, brands are prioritising external hires over upskilling existing staff.
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Though it’s easy for marketers to be seduced by the short-term wins that come with lower-funnel activities, the evidence is clear: it takes a full-funnel strategy to make it through a downturn unscathed.
New data suggests corporate-NGO partnerships will only increase in importance over the next three years amid the cost of living crisis and war in Ukraine.
With more than half of marketers admitting effectiveness is not a defined role and rarely a priority in their business, are brands thinking clearly about how to properly resource their teams?
More than a fifth of brands have no employees with dedicated responsibility for marketing effectiveness, according to Marketing Week’s exclusive Language of Effectiveness Survey.
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CMSWire's customer experience (CXM) channel gathers the latest news, advice and analysis about the evolving landscape of customer-first marketing, commerce and digital experience design.
Instagram has nearly 1.5 billion monthly active users, and according to an Insider Intelligence report, as of 2019, Instagram was used by 69% of marketers who work with influencers. 
For brands interested in marketing to people from 13 to 34 years old, the social network can be an extremely effective place to increase brand awareness, audience, leads and sales. 
Let’s take a look at the ways brands are using Instagram for marketing, best practices and the challenges of Instagram marketing.
An August 2022 study titled Scrolling Social Media for Dopamine revealed 70% of those polled are Instagram users, more than any other social media platform. 
A July 2022 report by Statista indicated 27.3% of Instagram's audience in the United States are between 25 and 34 years old, and almost 6% are between 13 and 17 years of age. 
For brands whose customer base is largely Generation Z, Instagram provides an amazing opportunity to reach and engage their audience. 
But there’s more to Instagram than just Gen Z. CouponFollow recently released its 2022 Millennial Shopping Habits Trend Report, which revealed 78% of millennials in the United States follow brands on social media, and 54% indicated that their shopping habits are most influenced by Facebook (28%) and Instagram (27%).
Joe Sinkwitz, CEO of Intellifluence, a warm-contact influencer marketing network, told CMSWire that brands seeking to attract millennial and Gen Z consumers have moved away from using large celebrity influencers and are now more inclined to work with niche micro-influencers who have built up trust and expertise in their market.
"Getting direct sales on Instagram is easier than it used to be with the use of profile links that lead a user to a list of current offers, but when paired with an influencer providing limited offer coupon codes for their audience it works quite well," he said.
Instagram is a highly visual medium, so video, imagery and illustrations work very well on the platform, especially for brands that wish to showcase their products or the services they provide. The way brands use Instagram should be dictated by the brand’s strategies and goals. 
Cat Koehler, senior social media manager for HorsePower Brands LLC, a portfolio company of franchise brands in the service industry, told CMSWire the visual nature of Instagram made it extremely useful for their franchise brands. "Because it is so visual, we’re really using Instagram to build our awareness and show the power of what our brands bring to our franchisees and their customers."
Because Instagram users have short attention spans, Koehler said to keep your presence eye-catching and straightforward. “Having a great image or video with a simple text overlay — there’s not a lot of question as to what it is. It’s clear and identifiable as a brand.”
Related Article: How Influencers Help Build a Better Customer Experience
Many brands already use Instagram for marketing purposes, and some, such as Nike, have extremely large numbers of followers (237 million).

Many influencers who primarily use other social platforms such as YouTube or TikTok also have an Instagram presence they use to allow their followers to see more of their personalities and personal lives. 
Sam the Cooking Guy, a YouTube influencer, does this on his Instagram page:

As with other social media platforms, Instagram is a great place for brands to allow their customers to get to know their personalities and sense of humor. 
Not every post has to be a marketing or advertising statement — by regularly providing beautiful images, funny or entertaining pictures or informative content, customers will be much more likely to be receptive when brands actually post marketing content. 
Additionally, Instagram is a great place for brands to show their products and services in action. Chandler Redding, publicist and brand strategist at Otter PR, an Orlando-based public relations agency, told CMSWire Instagram is where brands curate a library of moments where their product or service can be seen being used, whether it's through a professionally captured photo or video or in a review by an influencer.
 “Brands should look at Instagram as a stage to show off their products and services and educate, entertain or inspire viewers,” suggested Redding. 
Cassaundra Kalba, publicist at Otter PR, told CMSWire the most powerful tool available to brands through Instagram is the Insights tab, but she said this feature is only available to business accounts. 
“Insights allows the organization to see when their followers are most active, by hour, on each day of the week. This is key to posting content that will reach the largest audience,” Kalba explained.
“Reach is also incredibly important, which indicates the number of accounts that have seen or interacted with your content,” Kalba said. “The larger the reach, the more likely your brand is to grow, and generate potential customers. To increase a post’s reach, brands should always enable their location (to HQ, or relevant places elsewhere), complete the ‘alt text’ section with keywords that relate to the content, and include all relevant hashtags.” 
Kalba recommended that brands reply to all comments and interactions with at least four-word responses, which will help build meaningful relationships with customers and tell Instagram they are creating meaningful and thoughtful content, which boosts the content as well.
Vicky Wu, chief marketing strategist and owner at Vicky Wu Marketing, spoke with CMSWire about the use of Highlights, an Instagram feature that she said many brands are missing out on — even some well-known profiles. 
“When someone visits an Instagram profile, like when they want to learn more about your business or find your links, those bubbles are the first thing that shows up right after the profile info. And if you check out most businesses — other than perhaps the huge corporations with large marketing staff — those highlights are sporadic and haphazard,” said Wu, who explained that it's really simple to make great use of this area in a brand’s profile. 
“Some ways you can do this is to have separate Highlight bubbles for your services, or perhaps break them down for different audiences.”
Wu suggested most businesses already have content on Instagram that can be categorized into some Highlights that make sense for their audience. 
“If they don't, it's easy to quickly create some stories and reels that can be used here,” said Wu, adding that brands can probably spend an hour on this and get their sections set up with branded covers and some strategic content added to each one, “and it will be an hour well spent.”
Related Article: Understanding the Connection Between Social Media and Great Customer Experience
HubSpot’s 2022 Instagram Engagement Report indicated many brands are confused about the type of hashtags they should use on their posts and how many they should use. Although avoiding popular hashtags may seem to go against marketing logic, it's more effective to target niche communities, which usually have a more dedicated following. 
The report indicated there are five main categories of hashtags used on Instagram:
Location (#Orlando, #NYC)
Branded (#Nike, #Kelloggs, #RedCross)
Industry (#Travel, #bikes)
Community (#photographers, #campers)
Descriptive (#makeup, #DIYsolar)
Although one may believe that #travel would do well, it’s such a vast category that such a post would tend to get lost among the thousands of posts using the same hashtag. A more narrow niche, such as #glamping, #hiking or #biking would tend to draw a more dedicated community. 
“When brands understand the type of content and specific niche to target, it really helps streamline the creation process,” said Redding.

Although brands need to ensure their hashtags are relevant to their niche, the HubSpot report indicated the more tags used on a post, the better — using a lot of tags doesn't harm post performance.
Koehler told CMSWire although there are a lot of challenges, many are due to the continuing evolution of the platform itself. “I feel that Instagram is still really trying to figure out who they are as a platform. We’re excited that they’re testing a repost feature, which has been frustrating for many brands for a long time.” 
The limitations of the platform also pose a challenge for brands that wish to get their message out. “It’s important to us that our audience shares our content, which they are not able to do.
It’s frustrating for the brand as well as the users,” Koehler said, adding there is always a lot of change with Instagram, and keeping up with those changes can be frustrating.
Redding explained that above all, brands must keep in mind Instagram, and similar social platforms, require a lot of time to plan, prepare and execute to be successful — what they put into it is what they get out of it.
“Many people make it look easy, but creating a 15-to-30-second video that's timely, captivating, niche-specific, and posted during the right time of the day, using the right features and hashtags, takes a few hours and a lot of proactive thinking,” he said.
Redding added Instagram is one of the more demanding social media platforms to market on because it's no longer a platform just to post photos anymore. 
“Its engine is much more complex, providing the potential for greater results. Brands who want to see their Instagram channel succeed should devote a team to achieve that goal, not one person,” said Redding.
Instagram is a valuable platform for brands trying to reach Gen Z and millennials, and most brands already have a presence on the social platform. 
By targeting a niche market while staying true to their values and goals, brands can increase brand awareness, provide interesting, informative and entertaining content to their customers and leads and showcase their products and services in a visually appealing way.

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Search Engine Land » Channel » PPC » 4 dos and don’ts of a digital marketing apprenticeship
Internships are a staple of early-day careers. Most companies will expect new hires to have some sort of internship experience after graduating college. For the most part, internships do a good job of taking care of college students and entry-level working professionals.
Digital marketing isn’t always an obvious career choice for those who are not in the conventional time in their careers for internships. Setting up budding marketers at different stages in life requires a bit more of a dynamic approach than “for credit” internships.  
Apprenticeships need to be structured in a way that honors the experience the new digital marketer has from other professional and life experiences, while still ensuring they get the foundations right. 
Here are the dos and don’ts of structuring a digital marketing apprenticeship to ensure you and your apprentice get the most out of working together. 
Internships allow companies to “pay” for work in class credit. This enables brands who otherwise could not afford to take on budding digital marketers. 
Adults in the working world typically can’t use college credits. 
It’s also unreasonable to ask anyone to work for free. This includes investing the time to learn the craft. Coming up with a stipend of any size (even as little as $500 per month) can go a long way in:
Structuring compensation for marketing tasks can take many different forms. Whether you go with an hourly rate or a flat rate, it’s important that the rate doesn’t’ cause an operational burden.
For example, when I work with an apprentice, I sell their services specifically. The client knows they are getting someone learning, and they also get discounted access to an expert strategist.
If you work in-house, break down the tasks that your team currently are working on by hourly cost. An established member of the team will be more expensive to assign “grunt work” tasks. Freeing up 5-10 hours per week at a more expensive rate will help bottom line margins, while also facilitating a new marketer to get hands-on experience.  
Just as it’s important to compensate your apprentice for their work, it’s also important to pace their learning and working timelines. 
Gaining mastery of anything requires 10,000 hours and assigned tasks should support the learning process, not create opportunities to fail. 
When an apprentice is first learning, empower them to do tasks that follow up on any certifications you might have them take. It’s easy to forget the learning curve of jargon and developing efficient workflows in tools. Set them up with tasks that give them opportunities to learn in the way they learn best. 
Let the first week be about learning and getting comfortable in whatever part of digital marketing you’re structuring the apprenticeship around. Honor whether your apprentice does better learning by doing, reading, listening, or watching. 
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We all want to do well and getting words of affirmation can be really helpful in overcoming imposter syndrome. That said if an apprentice is struggling, telling them they’re doing well when they’re not will create a shaky foundation.
Be transparent with your apprentice about the milestones you expect them to hit and how they’re pacing against your expectations. 
When working with an apprentice who is falling a little short, ask questions about how the process could serve them better. When I was first setting up internships and apprenticeships, I struggled to pace the amount of knowledge I’d attempt to impart and actually shut down their confidence. They took longer to get into the workflows than they would have had I allowed them to dictate the learning pace.
It’s important to remember that apprentice programs need to serve the brand just as much as they serve the apprentice. The criteria you look for in new hires should extend to your apprentice. 
Digital marketing requires certain core skills to succeed:
Creativity is needed, but not as mandatory in an apprentice. By removing the pressure to come up with creative, you will allow your apprentice to organically cultivate that skill as they work with the more technical skills. 
If you take on an apprentice with none of the core skills, it invites friction. When I look for apprentices I look for folks who demonstrate the skills I value in unconventional ways. For example, many of my most successful apprentices play MMO video games (which require a lot of data analysis and team development). It also helps that there’s a shared personal interest, so the manager relationship is friendlier and more accessible. 
Apprentice programs can be powerful ways of doing well by doing good.
Going the apprentice road vs. the conventional hire will require extra investment from you to set them up for success. However, the long-term benefits of cultivating an apprentice can ensure you have a team member just as invested in your success as you are. 
Finding a good apprentice requires you to know what you want and be open to finding them in unconventional places. It’s rewarding to see them light up as they gain mastery, and their work will be a source of pride.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
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Formula Done
Having spent the last three years studying social media marketing, SEO trends, and the rising costs of Facebook and Google ads, Jennifer Neal discovered that the way we’ve been taught to market as digital marketers is actually fighting the system and increasing costs.
By: Formula Done | Meridian, Idaho
September 15, 2022 – Jennifer is not only revealing these trends but teaching the simple tweaks you can use to increase the effectiveness of your content and reduce advertising costs. Introducing the Content Connection Academy.
The Content Connection Academy is an online program designed to walk you through, step by step, how to reactivate old content you’ve already created (or create new) and attract qualified leads, ultimately making money. Without expensive ads, techy tricks or spending all of your time on social media. And fast. This is something you can do in a weekend.
“The way we’ve been taught how to market (As digital marketers) is actually damaging our results!” -Jenn Neal.
Can you really get twice as many leads for half the price? Yes. It starts with the Traffic Trifecta – the three-part foundation. What it boils down to is this.
Marketing Technology News: Konica Minolta’s FORXAI Video Security Solution Wins New Product of the Year

Social Media Marketing – most people say it’s dead and organic marketing doesn’t work. Unless you’re the annoying guy who spam messages every person who friends you, it’s not dead. It’s just that your content isn’t getting attention, and you’re trying to fight the social media algorithms. You have to play along; then, like magic, your content gets attention. The keys are matching your content to what users are on the channel to do – connect, be inspired, entertained, learn, etc.
Search Marketing – most digital marketers pay no attention to SEO, meaning we’re talking about our expertise using different words than our prospects. Also, prospects are smart. They’re pros at searching. If you aren’t showing up in the results, you’re missing out. We’re not advocating a complete SEO strategy for every business, but by simply making a few tweaks to the content you’re already creating, you’ll see a world of difference.
Paid Traffic (Ads) – this is where most marketers turn to right away. Typically, Meta (Facebook) ads convert at about 1% of traffic or less. That number seems insane – and our formula in the Content Connection Academy shares how to do ads yourself for far less cost and far better results.
Yes, social omnipresence is important. Ads are important. And so are search engine results. The problem is that we’ve been taught to work them separately, which causes the algorithms to hide your content and treat you like spam.
“After I had lost over $33 Thousand on Facebook ads, I decided there had to be a better way. After much research and testing, I created the Content Connection Academy.” – Jenn Neal
Instead, you can make a few simple tweaks in how you create and share your content, and all of a sudden, you’re playing with the algorithms, saving time, cutting costs, and growing your bottom line.
Marketing Technology News: MarTech Interview with Arsen Avakian, CEO and Founder at Cooler Screens
MarTech Series (MTS) is a business publication dedicated to helping marketers get more from marketing technology through in-depth journalism, expert author blogs and research reports.
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By now, you’ve likely tried out one of the new AI-based image generation tools, which ‘sample’ a range of image repository websites and online references to create all new visuals based on text prompts.
DALL·E is the most well-known of these new apps, while Midjourney has also become popular in recent months, enabling users to create some startling visual artworks, with virtually no effort at all.
But what are your usage rights to the visuals you create – and for marketers, can you actually use these images in your content, without potential copyright concerns?
Right now, it seems that you can – though there are some provisos to consider.
According to terms of use for DALL·E, users do have the rights to use their creations for any purpose, including commercial usage:
Subject to your compliance with these terms and our Content Policy, you may use Generations for any legal purpose, including for commercial use. This means you may sell your rights to the Generations you create, incorporate them into works such as books, websites, and presentations, and otherwise commercialize them.
Yes, you can even sell the visuals you create, though most stock photo platforms are now re-assessing whether they’ll actually accept such for sale.
This week, Getty Images became the latest platform to ban the upload and sale of illustrations generated through AI art tools, which, according to Getty, is due to:
“…concerns with respect to the copyright of outputs from these models and unaddressed rights issues with respect to the imagery, the image metadata and those individuals contained within the imagery.”
Part of the concern here is that the visuals that are used as the source material for these AI generated depictions may not be licensed for commercial use.
Though even that’s not necessarily a definitive legal barrier.
As explained by The Verge:
“Software like Stable Diffusion [another AI art tool] is trained on copyrighted images scraped from the web, including personal art blogs, news sites, and stock photo sites like Getty Images. The act of scraping is legal in the US, and it seems the output of the software is covered by “fair use” doctrine. But fair use provides weaker protection to commercial activity like selling pictures, and some artists whose work has been scraped and imitated by companies making AI image generators have called for new laws to regulate this domain.
Indeed, various proposals have been put forward to potentially regulate and even restrict the use of these tools to protect artists, many of whom could well be out of the job as a result. But any such rules are not in place as yet, and it could take years before a legal consensus is established as to how to better protect artists whose work is sourced in the back-end.
There are even questions over the technical process of creation, and how that applies to legal protection in this sense. Back in February, the U.S. Copyright Office effectively implied that AI-generated images can’t be copyrighted at all as an element of ‘human authorship’ is required.
In terms of specific content policies, DALL·E’s usage terms state that people cannot use the app to ‘create, upload, or share images that are not G-rated or that could cause harm’.
So no depictions of violence or hate symbols, while the DALL·E team also encourages users to proactively disclose AI involvement in their content.
DALL·E’s additional guidelines are:
This is where further complications could come in. As noted by JumpStory, users of AI image generation tools should be wary of potential copyright concerns when looking to create images that include real people, as they may end up pulling in pictures of people’s actual faces.
JumpStory notes that many of the source images for the DALL·E project actually come from Flickr, and are subject to Flickr’s terms of use. For most generated depictions, like landscapes and artworks, etc., that’s not a problem, but it is possible that one of these tools could end up using a person’s real face, while re-creations of public figures could also be subject to defamation and misrepresentation, dependent on context.
Again, the legal specifics here are complex, and really, there’s no true precedent to go on, so how such a case might actually be prosecuted is unclear. But if you are looking to generate images of people, there may be complications, if that visual ends up directly resembling an actual person.
Clearly stating that the image is AI-generated will, in most cases, provide some level of clarity. But as a precautionary measure, avoiding clear depictions of people’s faces in your created images could be a safer bet.
Midjourney’s terms also make it clear violations of intellectual property are not acceptable:
“If you knowingly infringe someone else’s intellectual property, and that costs us money, we’re going to come find you and collect that money from you. We might also do other stuff, like try to get a court to make you pay our attorney’s fees. Don’t do it.”
Oddly tough talk for legal documentation, but the impetus is clear – while you can use these tools to create art, creating clearly derivative or IP infringing images could be problematic. User discretion, in this sense, is advised.
But really, that’s where things stand, from a legal perspective – while these systems take elements from other visuals online, the actual image that you’ve created has never existed till you created it, and is therefore not subject to copyright because your prompt is, in effect, the original source.
At some stage, the legal technicalities around such may change – and I do suspect, at some time, somebody will hold an AI art show or similar, or sell a collection of AI-generated art online which depicts significant elements of other artists’ work, and that will spark a new legal debate over what constitutes intellectual property violation in this respect.
But right now, full use of the images created in these tools is largely fine, as per the terms stated in the documentation of the tools themselves.
Note: This is not legal advice, and it’s worth checking with your own legal team to clarify your company’s stance on such before going ahead.
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For months, we’ve all been waiting to hear the verdict on Elon Musk’s $44 billion deal with Twitter. Now, as Musk seeks to terminate this deal, we must wait on the courts to decide the fate of this contract.
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For months, we’ve all been waiting to hear the verdict on Elon Musk’s $44 billion deal with Twitter. Now, as Musk seeks to terminate this deal, we must wait on the courts to decide the fate of this contract.
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September 21, 2022 | 22 min read
Listen to article 4 min
The planet is on fire – and digital marketing is partly to blame, argues columnist Samuel Scott.
Wild fires have been one of the enduring images of the summer / Photo by Matt Palmer on Unsplash
The earth has a finite amount of space and resources. Basing our companies, marketing models and entire economies on the need for continuous, neverending growth might not be the best idea.
After I graduated from university, my first full-time job in journalism in the US was as a staff reporter for The Boston Courant. The weekly newspaper covered the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Fenway, and part of the South End neighborhoods in the city. Although the publication never really ‘grew’, it was seemingly very profitable.

What was the paper’s business strategy? Cover the richest parts of Boston, and charge companies a lot of money to advertise to the people who live there. (Former US senator and secretary of state John Kerry’s home is on Beacon Hill.)
‘Growth’ was not a part of the plan. If the Courant would have expanded into other, poorer neighborhoods, the average wealth – and thereby value – of the paper’s readership would have declined. The publication’s circulation remained constant while the publisher would increase profits by raising advertising rates periodically.
At a time when many companies care more about growth and less about profits, marketers could learn from that newspaper. For a moment, forget about ‘growth’. Forget that ‘digital’ is not a marketing strategy, tactic or channel but a type of technology. Forget that people calling themselves ‘growth hackers’ or ‘digital marketers’ are actually limiting themselves and telling the world that they can use only a small number of the available tools in the marcom toolbox.
The worst thing about ‘growth hacking’ and digital advertising today is that they are directly contributing to climate change.
‘Profitability does not matter’
At the peak of July’s first international heat wave, London (39 C) was hotter than here in Tel Aviv (32 C) for the first time that I can remember – if not for the first time ever. And it was not even August yet in the northern hemisphere.
But what worries me the most today is that there are seemingly few marketers who realize that there is a direct line from growth hacking to digital advertising to energy consumption to climate change. Let’s go back to the beginning.
It always starts with the money. A venture capitalist receives money from ‘limited partners’ such as endowments, corporate pension funds, sovereign wealth funds and wealthy families. He creates a VC fund and invests in various companies – typically, tech startups.
The goal is for the startups to grow as large as possible, as quickly as possible, and then exit through an acquisition or initial public offering (IPO) on a stock exchange. Then, the VC fund gets high returns for the limited partners. Profitability has nothing to do with it.
“When it comes to investors and getting an exit, how often does a startup get acquired because it was profitable? Rarely, if not never,” Mat Sherman, founder of the startup founder networking platform Seedscout, has written on Medium. “Startups get acquired because of the technology, product, team, or combination of the three.”
Enter ‘growth hacking’. By most accounts, the term was created in 2010 by Sean Ellis, the founder and chief executive of the software company GrowthHackers, to refer in part to getting customers or users quickly and cheaply in the tech world.
In his 2014 book Growth Hacker Marketing, Ryan Holiday described the practice this way: “A growth hacker is someone who has thrown out the playbook of traditional marketing and replaced it with only what is testable, trackable and scalable. Their tools are emails, pay-per-click ads, blogs and platform APIs instead of commercials, publicity, and money.” That sentiment has since spread from the tech world to marketers in many other industries.

The VC-funded startup world cares only about quick growth, so ‘growth hackers’ care only about what is quickly ‘testable, trackable and scalable’. The problems with that mentality in marketing are best reserved for another time. The issue here is that ‘growth hacking’ means using only digital tools and channels – nearly all of which are now based on cloud computing.
The energy consumption of cloud marketing
At a basic level, ‘the cloud’ is a buzzword for the world’s interconnected IT infrastructure of network devices, data centers, cell towers and fiber optic cables that are usually owned by various companies. Using ‘the cloud’ is outsourcing one’s IT by renting space there.
On the positive side, cloud computing – which became mainstream in the mid-2000s – can be cheaper, faster and more secure than using one’s own servers. Much of the speed and ease at which marketers can engage on social media, send email newsletters or run programmatic ad campaigns comes from this infrastructure.
A post at the educational platform Cloud Academy puts it this way: “With the use of cloud-based tools, marketers have better control over marketing and business content. They can deploy strategies independently without having to rely on other departments, which definitely streamlines the operations and saves time… The automation of marketing operations strengthens the core of the business as a whole.”
But on the negative side, the cloud’s infrastructure consumes a lot of energy. You know how hot a laptop can feel? Multiply that by the estimated 2bn computers that are in the world.
Writing in the digital magazine Aeon last month, MIT cloud anthropologist Steven Gonzalez Monserrate noted the cloud’s “titanic electricity requirements, the staggering water footprint required to cool its equipment, the metric tons of electronic waste it proliferates … to keep data centers – the heart of the cloud – operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.”
The effect is more than theoretical. According to the Financial Times in July, the Greater London Authority (GLA) has banned new housing developments in parts of the city’s West End because “there is not ‘sufficient electrical capacity for a new connection’ until up to 2035.”
The reason? Nearby data centers are using all the available power. “Data centers use large quantities of electricity, the equivalent of towns or small cities, to power servers and ensure resilience in service,” the FT quoted the GLA as saying.
In addition, The Register, a UK tech publication, recently reported that the largest US data center market – in Loudoun County, Virginia – is now running short on electricity. Recently, extreme heat in California knocked a key Twitter data center offline.
In total, worldwide data centers use 1% of global electricity consumption, according to the German business publication Deutsche Welle earlier this year. That is just under the annual electric use of Australia or Taiwan and more than the individual amounts used in South Africa, Argentina, or Colombia.
Many marketers often claim that we are now ‘living in a digital world’ and that marcom campaigns should be ‘digital-first’. But it is digital technology itself that is contributing to climate change.
Which advertising channels use the most energy?
Every single time that marketers use computers, mobile devices, anything digital or the internet in general, they are consuming electricity. According to Gary Nissim, managing director of the Australian agency Indago Digital, a website with 100,000 page views per month emits twice the amount of carbon dioxide per year as a Toyota Yaris.
In contrast, traditional billboards with paper or vinyl ads, for example, use essentially no energy. The Drum’s media editor, John McCarthy, recently reported on the controversial energy consumption of digital outdoor (OOH) ads after Greenpeace tweeted a picture of a vandalized Clear Channel six-panel display.

McCarthy cited research showing that a double-sided digital freestanding unit from Clear Channel used more electricity than four homes each year. A large JCDecaux billboard was found to consume up to the equivalent of 36 homes.
Scope3 is a new startup based in London and New York City that helps brands, advertisers and publishers to measure and reduce their carbon emissions. The company is led by Brian O’Kelley, the co-founder and former chief executive of the ad tech platform AppNexus before its $1.6bn sale to AT&T in 2018.
“In the advertising industry, there’s a hidden truth,” Anne Coghlan, another Scope3 co-founder, told me. “The by-product of new technologies, innovation and a constant need to drive revenue growth has created supply chains which are incredibly inefficient and ultimately harming our planet.
“Of the $500bn that marketers spend on advertising each year, nearly three-quarters of this is going towards digital ads. To quantify the problem, one million digital ad impressions generate an equal amount of carbon emissions as one round trip flight from Boston to London for one person. This has become a systemic issue embedded in complex supply chains.”
Noting the pervasive amount of fraud in the online advertising world, is it worth emitting such levels of greenhouse gasses to run display and programmatic ads that are often never seen by human beings?
In addition, Net Zero Media, an Australian emissions measurement company, found this month that marketing activities accounted for substantial percentages of corporate greenhouse gas emissions in the country.
For this column, I contacted the US and UK trade organizations that represent the TV, radio, print, outdoor, cinema and online advertising industries in those two countries. Only one – Outsmart in the UK – responded to my inquiries on the amounts of carbon emissions that ad campaigns on their respective channels emit.
“Media are not equal when it comes to their carbon impact,” Tim Lumb, the organization’s insight and effectiveness director, told me. “The weight and mix chosen for a campaign can make a big difference, and the one-to-many nature of OOH shows it to have the least impact for audience plays.”
“[Digital] OOH does not require the physical distribution of assets,” he added. “DOOH makes up 0.03% of all 100m digital screens in the UK.”
Still, I propose a test. In a prior column, I advocated for the use of controlled experiments to compare the true effectiveness of various advertising channels. Some neutral, trustworthy research firm or university should do something similar when it comes to traditional versus digital outdoor ads.
Take two similar areas in two similar cities in a country. In one, run an outdoor campaign for a given product with traditional billboards. In the other, use digital billboards. Make everything similar – from the product to the creative to the placements to the foot traffic. The only variable should be the use of digital technology or not.
Then, compare the metrics after the campaign – everything from sales lift to brand awareness to mental availability to share of search. The question to answer: does making a billboard ‘digital’ have any greater positive impact?
According to Enders Analysis, the portion of UK outdoor advertising that was digital rose from 10% in 2010 to 50% in 2018. But if it does not improve effectiveness, then ‘digital’ is even worse than a vanity metric – it is a vanity technology. (Just because something is newer does not automatically make it better.)
But if the shift to digital does increase effectiveness, then advertisers may have to choose between selling more stuff or saving the world.

Of course, the industry should do similar studies for all types of advertising. Remember: true brand purpose is not telling the world that you support a cause – it is actually doing something to help.
In the meantime, there are carbon emission tools that the industry can use such as the UK IPA’s Media Carbon Calculator, MediaCom’s Carbon Calculator and the AdGreen Carbon Calculator. But their accuracy is debatable. GroupM, WPP’s media investment group, also recently announced an initiative to measure and reduce ad-based carbon emissions.
Every marcom channel has positives and negatives to consider when creating media plans for advertising campaigns. The environmental impact is now one additional variable to keep in mind.
The big picture of economic sustainability
Herman Daly, an emeritus professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy and a former senior economist for the World Bank, is a noted opponent of economies based on constant growth and a proponent of what he deems a ‘steady-state economy’.
“In ecological economics, we’ve tried to make a distinction between development and growth,” he recently told The New York Times. “When something grows, it gets bigger physically by accretion or assimilation of material. When something develops, it gets better in a qualitative sense. It doesn’t have to get bigger.”
Just like my old newspaper The Boston Courant. (And unlike certain once highly-regarded business publications that have sacrificed their strong brands to grow by publishing more and more clickbait to get more and more traffic. The quality of an audience is often more important than the quantity.)
Now, imagine if the marketing and tech worlds adopted that same idea.
HubSpot was founded in 2006 and had a net income of -$78m in 2021. Airbnb started in 2008 and lost $352m last year. Uber? 2009 and -$496m. There are countless other examples. WeWork? 2008 and -$4.4bn.
Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with being unprofitable – at least at the beginning. An inventor might live off a small bank loan while creating something in his garage. But there is something inherently wrong with huge companies that still lose hundreds of millions of dollars after a decade.
In such an environment, survival is not based on who builds the best products or does the best advertising – instead, it is based on who gets the most money from VCs. And that is unsustainable in every sense of the word. It is easy when money is cheap. After all, interest rates had been at near-zero levels since the Great Recession at the end of the 2000s.
But take the current stagflation environment that is seeing rising interest rates. Scott Galloway crunched the numbers and published in a recent email newsletter that large, unprofitable tech companies have been responsible for most of the stock market losses over the past year.
As examples at that time, he cited Snap (-86%), Peloton (-90%) and Roku (-80%).

In my adult lifetime, I have seen three major downturns – each of which was largely caused by highly overvalued sectors: tech in 2000, mortgage-backed securities in 2008 and tech again in 2022. Economies with constant, erratic swings from skyrocketing highs to doldrum lows help no one.
“We will need another bubble to get to the multipliers and valuations we had in Q3 2021,” angel investor and Salto cofounder Benny Schnaider recently told the Israeli business publication Calcalist. But it is neither healthy nor sustainable for economies or industries to rely on bubbles reinflating over and over again.
“This uniquely 21st-century phenomenon has warped how technology companies view the fundamental tenets of business,” the product platform ProductPlan correctly notes in a company post. “Executives aren’t worried about profit margins, ROIs and sound fiscal fundamentals – it’s all about gobbling up customers like a high-stakes game of Hungry Hungry Hippos.”

And a further question: is the existence of so many unprofitable behemoths good for the climate?
At their best, corporations can help society in numerous ways. Employees earn salaries that they spend at other businesses. A company might invent a new product that benefits the world. Most importantly, they provide tax revenue that governments can use to build schools, fund hospitals and decrease carbon emissions.
But corporations that do not post profits generally do not pay any taxes. Therefore, they are the ones that help humanity the least. Business and marketing models that prioritize profitability – rather than top-line revenue – are the best for the world.
As London Business School finance professor Alex Edmans wrote in a post on Oxford University’s Faculty of Law blog in October 2021: “Sustainable profits are the sign of a responsible company.”
Soon, the marketing industry’s use of energy-consuming digital tools in service of profitless ‘growth hacking’ might become neither sustainable nor responsible. After all, self-serving, unrestrained growth is how cancer works. And it often kills the host.
The Promotion Fix is an exclusive column for The Drum contributed by Samuel Scott, a global keynote marketing speaker based out of Tel Aviv, Israel. His opinions are only his own.
© Carnyx Group Ltd 2022 | The Drum is a Registered Trademark and property of Carnyx Group Limited. All rights reserved.

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Dallas, TX – Joe Youngblood SEO & Digital Marketing Consulting, a Dallas-based SEO agency, has launched a new browser extension to help desktop web users better manage how they use popular websites. The new extension, called Ultimasaurus, has been in development since May of 2022 and was recently approved to be listed on the Google Chrome web store.
As the web grows more and more controlled by a handful of big tech companies, they restrict how users can customize their experiences on the platforms they own. Often this leads to consumers being inundated with sensational news content, poor search result listings, and paid content instead of the content a user was looking for – all while useful features to help users make objective decisions and perform rational behaviors are removed or hidden behind dark patterns. The Ultimasaurus extension is a new tool to help consumers take back some control over what they see on large websites and what features or functions are available to them without any coding knowledge required. The extension does this by giving users a series of toggle switches which turn a feature on or off.
At launch the browser extension allows users to remove Twitter's "What's Happening" section, add dislike counts back to YouTube, remove Amazon from search results on Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo, and remove Pinterest from image search results.
Joe Youngblood, Founder of Joe Youngblood SEO & Digital Marketing Consulting, said: "We believe a digital marketing agency should make it a priority to improve the online consumer experience even if they are not using a client’s websites or app. We have made it an integral part of our mission to ensure that consumers have access to free and simple to use tools to customize and improve their online experience. Ultimasaurus makes it incredibly easy for consumers to shop smaller ecommerce merchants without changing any of their search behaviors, opt out of toxic and sensational topics on social media, and understand what videos other users have not enjoyed.”

Ultimasaurus is the only browser extension that packages up these features along with intuitive and simple to use controls. All of the features of Ultimasaurus can be easily enabled or disabled with one click inside of the extension.
The launch version of the browser extension has 4 one-click options that work on major websites including Google, Twitter, YouTube, Bing, and DuckDuckGo. Ultimasaurus is compatible with Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge and can be found on the Chrome Web Store for both browsers.
About Joe Youngblood SEO & Digital Marketing Consulting
Joe Youngblood SEO & Digital Marketing Consulting is a leading digital marketing and SEO agency based in Dallas, TX. Their unique research and marketing work has helped thousands of businesses improve their online presence and increase profits.
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Address:16135 Preston Rd. Ste 110A
City: Dallas
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Website: https://www.joeyoungblood.com/

 
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To view the original version on ABNewswire visit: Joe Youngblood SEO & Digital Marketing Consulting Launches Browser Extension to Give Users Control Over the Web
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