There are two different markets in advertising: the market between publishers and consumers and the market between advertisers and publishers.

AI will disrupt the first market by flooding the media ecosystem with content. And not all of it will be garbage. In fact, creative content producers will use AI to create high-quality content at scale, and much of it will be indistinguishable from the content authors and artists once crafted slowly without AI.

This deluge of content will result in a new premium on the user experience. If audiences can get high-quality, custom content from many different outlets and platforms, they will flock to media environments that are beautiful, accessible, and enjoyable.

So, in a post-AI ecosystem, media owners will be highly discouraged from running tons of ads and diminishing UX. In the consumer content market, a high-quality UX will win.

But the elevated urgency of high-quality user experiences will also affect the market between advertisers and publishers. With fewer impressions to go around (due to publishers slashing ads to win consumers based on a better UX), each impression will cost more. And advertisers will face even more pressure to ensure they’re spending on high-quality media that drives positive attention among audiences.

The increased importance of each impression, coupled with the competitive edge of crafting a better experience for the end user, will dovetail to boost the salience of attention metrics.

Attention metrics help advertisers assess the quality of a media environment and, therefore, the likelihood that an ad placed in that environment will capture the audience’s attention. For example, suppose a site runs only a select few ads in prominent locations without intruding too much on the audience’s engagement with content. In that case, it is likely to score high on attention metrics — because the audience is more likely to pay attention to the ads.

So, in the post-AI media ecosystem, attention metrics will be more salient because publishers will increasingly compete on UX (which attention metrics reward), and impressions will become more precious (which attention metrics help advertisers buy more shrewdly).

This represents a positive change for every party in the media ecosystem, aligning incentives in favor of higher-quality media experiences.

In the current ecosystem, where it’s hard to discern differences in quality between media owners, the cheapest option wins. But if publishers are rewarded for driving attention with high-quality UX, consumers get a better experience, media sellers who foster better experiences win, and advertisers achieve greater impact with each ad dollar by prioritizing effective placements in high-quality environments, not chasing cheap impressions.

The proliferation of AI-assisted content is often painted as a fresh apocalypse for the media industry. However, it may have just the opposite effect on the audience experience. By underscoring UX as a source of competitive differentiation for media owners, AI will discourage intrusive and spammy advertising, and advertisers will be incentivized — by the cost of each impression in a low-impression environment — to reward the publishers who do better by audiences.

By aligning the consumer media and advertising markets on the imperative of a better UX, AI will drive a flight to quality — not its much-decried diminution.