Meet AdVon, the AI-Powered Content Monster Infecting the Media Industry

A few years back, a writer in a developing country started doing contract work for a company called AdVon Commerce, getting a few pennies per word to write online product reviews. But the writer — who like other AdVon sources interviewed for this story spoke on condition of anonymity — recalls that the gig’s responsibilities soon shifted. Instead of writing, they were now tasked with polishing drafts generated using an AI system the company was developing, internally dubbed MEL. “They started using AI for content generation,” the former AdVon worker told us, “and paid even less than what they were paying before.” The former writer was asked to leave detailed notes on MEL’s work — feedback they believe was used to fine-tune the AI which would eventually replace their role entirely. The situation continued until MEL “got trained enough to write on its own,” they said. “Soon after, we were released from our positions as writers.” “I suffered quite a lot,” they added. “They were exploitative.” We first heard of AdVon last year, after staff at Gannett noticed product reviews getting published on the website of USA Today with bylines that didn’t seem to correspond to real people. The articles were stilted and formulaic, leading the writers’ union to accuse them of being “shoddy AI.” When Gannett blamed the strange articles on AdVon, we started digging. We soon found AdVon had been running a similar operation at the magazine Sports Illustrated, publishing product reviews using bylines of fake writers with…Meet AdVon, the AI-Powered Content Monster Infecting the Media Industry

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