If you read the technology section of the content farm news this week, you may have learned that the internet is about to die. Apps are basically already dead. The disruptive force that will change the game is a #gamechanger unlike any gamechanger before it. Chatbots are the next big thing, even though they've been an accessible technology for decades. Now that the internet and app space have matured, chatbots give content providers and service providers a sustainable, direct line of access to their customers.
Believe it or not, people mainly use their phone for messaging other people on apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Kik, and WeChat. About 1.4 billion people used a messaging app in 2015, according to eMarketer. The same forecast also predicts that by 2018, chat app users will reach 2 billion, meaning 80 percent of smartphone users. Seems like a sure bet if you are looking to scale. The outlook for apps is grim, because even though people download them, about 70 percent of smart phone traffic comes from only 200 apps. What about the rest of the apps that people downloaded to solve one problem and promptly forgot about? That's where Chatbots come in to act as the friend that has all the answers. And someone who you can immediately leave behind until you need them again.
If you believe the Chatbot press siege, you know this isn't just a new line of coverage for the tech sector of the internet to cover. This is more than Siri and more than Amazon's Alexa. The master Chatbot will allow you to speak, type, message, and emoji in order to get anything you want. It is the master App and the ultimate search engine. Chatbots have been around for a while, with some tracing their roots back to 1950. Many #Millennials were introduced to chatbots with SmarterChild on AOL Instant Messenger. Now, the opportunity is Silicon Valley's to pounce on.
Currently, the Washington Post is developing a bot to serve content to its audience. It is surely one of many content producers looking to push content to as many users as possible on as many platforms. The traditional webpage and even the architecture of the content farm as a tree of hierarchical content is quickly becoming obsolete. The idea of uploading one node of content, a single webpage that represents a 'blog post' is about to become about as 'outdated' as holding a book. Publishers are looking to maximize their reach across platforms, across mediums. Whether the publisher is utilizing Google's lite-loading news result markup in Google Amp, pushing premium content to Snapchat's discover section, or embedding full articles on Facebook—publishers are looking to get their content in front of you on ANY platform and figure out how to monetize it later. In the Chatbot arms race, publishers will be looking to beat their competition to launch. The sooner it launches, the more intelligence it can gain to artificially enhance its bot brain.
Chatbots will allow content farms and brands to turn messenger systems into a platform for proliferating content. Content will come your way when you feel like it, but the brand or publisher will still have direct access to you on the app that you already use (since they already flood your email inbox enough). Whether it is WhatsApp, Kik, Telegram, WeChat, or whatever you use to send SMS messages—the sacred frontier of social will now be infiltrated by bots that will get to know the real you. While Microsoft's own chatbot launch flopped, its platform is still a big deal. This week the messaging app Kik launched a platform for building bots. On Kik, one can chat with a few #brands and content companies like H&M, Sephora, and Funny or Die. Facebook has announced its Messenger Bot store that will probably be promoted in your feed before you know it.
When I think about messaging apps, they represent a sacred space for each individual user. Those whose lives were once sucked in by social media have returned to them in order to only stay connected to a select few. Those who never got into social media will still send a message here or there. Messages are formed in a preferred medium and they are preserved until you delete them. It's crazy to think that all of these apps might have to create Chatbot platforms in order to stay competitive in their space. Eventually, the simple act of messaging the people you actually care to know in a preferred messaging format could disappear. After we've seen social networks rise and fall, it will be weird to participate in the Chatbot bubble knowing that it all happens just to exploit resources. Then we are left with a graveyard of old content and contacts while the platforms sell off remaining value.
Even though I'm not a teenager, I decided to download Kik and interact with some brands.
It wasn't very stimulating. H&M directed me towards bundled looks; Funny or Die basically found another medium for encouraging me to LIKE or DISLIKE its content. It made me feel like Chatbots are going to end up missing the part where they try to be my friend. Instead, they are just cutting to the chase and trying to sell me something, or push something my way for their own good. The Chatbots need a little bit more empathy, like a compassionate salesman in the TV section of Best Buy.
Of course, the recently launched Chatbots are in their infancy stages and had minimal intelligence to pick up on my true desires to generate subversive content for this article. They are still using my responses to create a more complete product to boost their artificial intelligence. But after chatting with H&M's retail Chatbot and Funny Or Die's Chatbot, it is clear they have left behind the internet's sprawling web. There was more of a siphoned binary that emerged in chat. The option to type in my own text was there, but most of my decisions were reduced to pre-filled buttons, and the intelligence was confined to the flowchart of reasonable outcomes as designed by a systems analyst. There wasn't much space to personalize on my end, but the instant response in a personalized medium could probably trick people into believing they are getting all of the answers they need without the noise of infinite content behind it.
Chatbots are here, and even Snapchat deniers must evolve and stop thinking about content farms as webpages that might also have an optimized mobile site or app. As the media consolidation moves forward, any one publisher who is too dependent on any one traffic source will die. Anyone who sees monetizable content as a webpage with advertisements on it won't move forward. If you're in the content business, it's time to build your own brand's bot, targeted at your brand's viewer.
Chatbots are direct-to-consumer sales bots, quickly being built on the most relevant messaging platforms. No more getting lost on a website, clicking and tapping aimlessly. No more apps that have a single-use purpose. Your preferred Messaging system will be the place for everything. Instead of getting texts from Mom, your best friend, and your coworker, you will soon be able to add brands, publishers, and ordering systems to your contacts list. It doesn't matter where engagement comes from, just as long as the user is engaging. Furthermore, it doesn't matter where you see the premium content farm's content, just as long as the content got in front of your eyeballs. Chatbots are there to cheaply reach real people again. What may seem like a regression in the impending rise of Chatbots is actually just a natural purge of the wasted content, apps, and platforms. I can't wait until the bots gain enough intelligence to create the content.
Life on the Content Farm is a weekly column about internet media written by the last relevant blogger.