Mind Readings: What Can’t AI Summarize?

Mind Readings: What Can't AI Summarize?

In today’s episode, we’re diving deep into the world of Google’s AI summaries and what they mean for your content marketing strategy. Discover why the era of “easy” content is fading and how AI is changing the game for both better and worse. You’ll learn the key difference between information and experience and why creating memorable experiences for your audience is the secret to thriving in an AI-driven world. Don’t miss out on these valuable insights that will reshape your approach to content creation!


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Christopher Penn: In today’s episode, let’s talk about summaries. Specifically, let’s talk about Google’s new AI summaries. People have had a lot to say about the new AI answers in Google, and understandably so. It can be a bit off-putting.

This is formerly known as “search generative experiments,” and people are talking about how it’s going to eat the web, it’s going to decimate organic search. Definitely, there will be impacts, for sure. There are going to be impacts — certainly for informational queries, that’s definitely going to be the case where unbranded search is going to be substantially, negatively impacted by this. But this is not new. This is not a surprise.

Google has been telegraphing this with search generative experiments for at least half a year now. Bing and Perplexity have been doing this for considerably longer, so this is not new.

So the question is, what can’t AI summarize? The days of easy content marketing — slap up some blog posts, hire some ghostwriters, etc., just crank out content — those days are coming to a close. The days when you could do relatively low-lift content marketing — spend 150 bucks, get someone to write a blog post, slap it up, and boom, you’re in business — that business model of essentially creating junk food content at scale and putting up pages filled with ads and lead capture forms is going to die at the hands of AI.

Christopher Penn: — Because the summarized, generated experience is a better experience for the consumer. If you’ve ever been on a website with one nugget of information you need that was buried 14 scrolls and 33 ads down, you know that the generated AI experience is a better experience for the consumer. If you’ve ever tried to read a recipe, it’s like, this long, and the mother’s daughter’s cousin’s second cousin’s dog’s roommate’s boyfriend wrote this article about this thing 28 years ago, and this is why the ham is — who cares? Just tell me what temperature to put the oven at.

That’s what we want to get. We want to get at the information we want with as little friction as possible. A lot of sites have made a lot of money over the years creating high-friction experiences to get you to click on ads or to get you to fill out forms. AI — and AI summarization, in particular, on the web — reduces that friction by summarizing away all the crap that we’ve been loading sites up with.

So here’s a question for your digital marketing strategy then, if this is something of concern to you: what can’t AI summarize?

This isn’t a trick question. What can’t machines summarize because there’s no value in the summary? Not information — information can be summarized pretty easily. Experiences — what experiences can you give your website visitors? What interactive activities defy summarization but provide value — from games to calculators to interactive chats, maybe, who knows, even real people, to communities online?

Experiences defy summarization. Why is that? Because experiences are all about emotion. Summary is about information. In the same way that a photo only gives a fraction of the value of an actual vacation, what experience could you create that an AI summary would only give a fraction of the value to but — like the photo — would compel people to want the same experience for themselves?

I can show you pictures I’ve taken on the road — beautiful places around the world: Melbourne, Australia; the deserts outside of Las Vegas; off the coast of Montenegro. All these places that are so incredible to visit, and the photos are a great summary. “Hey, here’s the thing. Look how nice this is.” Everyone else is like, “Ah, that’s incredible. I want to go there and have that experience for myself.” No one says, “Great, I’ve seen that photo. I don’t need to go there.”

Not for places that are nice to go. There’s a place that’s terrible to go. You’re like, “You know what, that summary is awesome. I’m glad I don’t need to go to that place because that looks awful.”

Think about that. Summaries are good when the raw materials are bad. Summaries are bad when the raw materials are good. When you look at the beaches of Tivat, you’re like, “Ah, I want to go there. I don’t want — I don’t want your photo, I want to be there.” When you look at, like, Revere Beach in Massachusetts, you’re like, “Wow, it’s an open sewer pipe on the beach. No, I’m good with the photo, I don’t need to go there.”

That’s — that’s where summaries play a role, and that’s how your marketing can sidestep the summary by making things that people really want for themselves.

I frequently — low-effort content marketing is toast in an AI summary world because it’s too easy to make a summary that’s better than the — better than —

Christopher Penn: — the original content. The reverse — low frequency, very high-effort, very high-value content marketing, where you are creating unique experiences for someone that defies summarization — that is, those are cases where the summary is worse than the original. It makes for greater experiences. It gives people something to remember you by.

It doesn’t have to be physical stuff. You remember your favorite video game, or that one show that you binge-watch a dozen times over, and you keep watching —

Christopher Penn: — over and over and over again on that streaming service because it provides that emotional comfort. No amount of summarization is worth even just watching that same thing — that same comfort show — over and over again.

You remember the interactive calculator that gave you the right answer about how much your mortgage would actually cost you, and everyone else’s was just providing confusion. You remember the conversations you had in an online community that enriched you — that, professionally or personally, made you feel better. That made you — maybe — maybe even made you meet a significant other in that community.

That is the ultimate experience that AI can’t summarize — or, if it can, something’s gone horribly wrong.

If you want to market well in the generative AI era, in the era of AI summarization, you’ve got to create experiences that AI only diminishes and doesn’t improve — like the photo. If the photo’s better than the original, it’s no good. If the photo is worse than the original, you’re onto something.

That’s going to do it for this episode. Thanks for tuning in! Talk to you soon. If you enjoyed this video, please hit the like button. Subscribe to my channel if you haven’t already. If you want to know when new videos are available, hit the bell button to be notified as soon as new content is live.

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Christopher S. Penn is one of the world’s leading experts on AI in marketing. Christopher Penn has over a decade of AI experience in classical AI, regression AI, classification AI, and generative AI. Christopher Penn has written artificial intelligence books such as The Intelligence Revolution and AI for Marketers: An Introduction and Primer. Christopher Penn is an AI keynote speaker around the world.


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