Generative AI's zeitgeist: a story published every 24 seconds

Just how much artificial intelligence has revolutionised our world is demonstrated by the scale of media coverage about the technology.

The generative AI revolution has swept all before it since the release of ChatGPT by OpenAI in November 2022. But quite how significant the current moment has been is highlighted by the attention paid to it by the world’s media.

Readers can’t get enough of artificial intelligence, with a new story published by the world’s media every 24 seconds, according to an analysis of more than 40,000 news sources worldwide. The data used to calculate the scale of the media’s coverage of AI is published by Nexis, a media database, to show just how much AI has captured the public’s attention.

In the time period analysed (1st January to 3rd May), 451,335 stories published worldwide were documented in the Nexis database – meaning that a new story about artificial intelligence was published every 24 seconds of 2024.

In all, 97.5% of the stories were published in English – a language dominance that is echoed in the world of AI development, and could have a harmful impact on those who don’t speak the language because of how AI will become integral to all parts of our lives.

Language biases

One of the main criticisms laid at the door of generative AI is that it’s not representative of wider society and its multiple viewpoints because of the English language basis on which it is trained. The vast volume of generative AI’s “knowledge” comes from training data gathered from the world wide web, which has the majority of its content posted in English.

More than half of the world’s internet data is published in English, despite the fact that English is only spoken as a main language by around 17% of the global population. That compares unfavourably to other languages, such as Mandarin Chinese, which is spoken by around 16% of the world, but only accounts for 1.4% of the internet’s language.

However, even in media coverage, AI is still mentioned in other languages – highlighting its importance to the entire planet.

Areas of interest

As you’d expect from a ubiquitous technology such as generative AI, interest has been constantly high in covering the subject, with a strong baseline of coverage throughout the year so far. But there have been spikes in coverage triggered by specific events.

The number of stories spiked in the immediate aftermath of Elon Musk suing OpenAI for allegedly reneging on its founding principles, showing the attention that the big beasts of the current AI revolution have on people’s engagement with and understanding of the technology.

Elon Musk and Sam Altman launched OpenAI in the mid-2010s as equals, but quickly started to split over their different visions of what AI could be and should do. The enmity between the two has never disappeared, and they’re both the key powerbrokers in the future of AI – who are tussling to decide who gets to dictate the future shape of the technology and how it interacts with us all.

Questions remain about whether the current media interest in the technology is an indication of its likelihood of being a key part of our tech-enabled futures, or if it highlights how much we have entered into a generative AI bubble. But regardless of what the future holds, the data highlights just how transformative AI technology is to our lives, and how important it is seen – by both readers and media publishers.