Google CEO Sundar Pichai Says AI Overviews Feature Helping Publishers Drive Engagement: Report

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In a recent interview, Google CEO Sundar Pichai reportedly addressed concerns raised by independent news websites and publishers regarding the introduction of the new Google AI Overviews feature. The feature was announced at the company’s developer conference, Google I/O 2024, held on May 14. In a conversation with the Verge’s Nilay Patel last week, Pichai is said to have acknowledged the rising trepidation but brought an optimistic view on the potential issue. He reportedly stressed that the feature is resulting in improved user engagement and a higher number of clicks compared to regular search results.

The AI Overviews feature, which was previously available for access to select people via Search Labs, was rolled out on a broader scale in the US at Google I/O 2024. It leverages the company’s Gemini Large Language Model (LLM) to fulfil search queries by providing a brief overview of the same, along with the relevant links. While its introduction aims to provide information “in the blink of an eye”, independent news websites and publishers that rely on Google for web traffic have raised concerns, with some calling it a “death blow to publishers”, the Verge reports.

In a conversation with the Verge’s Nilay Patel last week, Pichai is said to have asserted the contrary, claiming that the company’s internal data reveals that the AI Overviews feature has not only led to higher engagement but also led to an increase in click-through rates. Although no metrics to support the claims were provided, Pichai reportedly highlighted that Google is attempting to maintain a balance between helping websites and providing helpful and meaningful content to users.

Websites, on the other hand, are losing traffic not to Google’s AI-powered features like SGE and AI Overviews, but to aggregators in the middle, the Verge quoted Pichai as saying. “Ironically, there are times when we have made changes to actually send more traffic to the smaller sites. Some of those sites that complain a lot are the aggregators in the middle,” the CEO said.

Pichai also reportedly expressed the importance of human-created content with the preferences of the user and the quality of content being significant. He suggested that an optimistic but cautious approach must be maintained when it comes to the integration of AI in content generation and creation.


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