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MacRumors founder Arnold Kim comments on AI and the threat to online publishing

Written by Glen Allsopp | +552 this month
August 12, 2023

I wouldn’t call myself an Apple product enthusiast, but do like to check in on MacRumors a few times each month to see the latest news coming out of California.

I’m not alone, with MacRumors’ about page stating they reach tens of millions of unique visitors each month, supported by 10 full-time employees.

Behind the scenes, MacRumors is quite special in a number of ways.

First of all, while they are definitely a news-focused platform, the site also hosts a forum with over one million registered users.

Go to any of their main forum categories and you’ll find that the most recent posts were always made in just the last few minutes. It’s an incredibly active community, helped by the fact that to comment on any news they publish, you’ll have to discuss it on said forum.

MacRumors is also special in that, as far as I can tell, they are not owned by one of the digital goliath’s dominating Google and appear to be the only brand of their founder, Arnold Kim.

Arnold quit practicing medicine to start the website, which was shared on a profile on the New York Times.

In a rare event, Arnold was recently on the MacRumors podcast and asked some questions about the business and the future of publishing. They didn’t get into the topic in too much detail, but I thought his comments were interesting.

He said,

“I think publishing is in sort of a weird place now. A lot of stuff is on social media and there are probably random teenagers on TikTok that have a huge audience of Apple people following them for iPhone content or whatever.

I think in terms of staying relevant you probably have to lean in to social. I think from a news publishing stand point, I mean we’re still going strong in what we do traditionally. I think some of that won’t completely go away but I think there’s going to be challenges with that and AI stuff.”

Asked whether he can see generating AI changing the Apple news landscape, he responded,

“I think it’s going to change all publishing. I know there’s a lot of controversy right now about where they get their content from but I feel like the reason Mac Rumors exists is because people want to know when the next something comes out or if they should wait…a lot of it is buying decisions.

If you can suddenly ask whatever AI search engine there is “When’s the next iPhone 15 coming out and what features does it have” and it’s able to consolidate that information all at once that’s threatening to a lot of businesses.”

What was more interesting to me was the realisation that Kim and the shows host came to after he made that comment, stating that the likes of Google would have to get that kind of information from sites such as MacRumors before they could distill it for others.

The discussion starts at 24:33 in the video below if you want to watch it for yourself.

I can understand his concern as long as people feel they can trust the answers AI generates. The likes of ChatGPT has shown many times to “make things up” and I’ve seen specific examples where they claim specific mobile phones have features they simply don’t.

If people make buying decisions solely on an AI answer, that information has to be accurate. If they’re consistently happy with those answers, then they aren’t going to have as much need to visit a site like Arnold’s (even if he is referenced as a source).

Future Plc’s Jon Steinberg commented on this exact product research situation, essentially stating he expects people to continue to do research by opening up tabs, rather than just relying on an AI-generated answer.

MacRumors gets a lot of traffic from enthusiasts who visit the site daily, as proven by the popularity of their forums where members discuss every aspect of Apple from phone cases to software updates. With that in mind, whatever publishing landscape we’re looking at in a few years, they’re likely to weather it as well as anyone else.

I’m personally still extremely bullish on SEO going forward, but it’s important to look at potential concerns as well, so I’ll keep you in the loop with any more comments like this I come across.

Finally, if you’ve been a Detailed reader for a while and are suddenly very confused why I’m covering news-like topics when we’ve been solely focused on in-depth reports for years then I know this might be a little bit strange.

The short answer is that we are not becoming a news site (at least, not yet) and in-depth reports are still my main focus. I just think this is a really interesting time in our industry, and a lot of the things I come across aren’t covered elsewhere so I wanted to share them myself.

I’ll write a proper update on our Behind the Scenes section soon, but I’m not tweeting, emailing or sharing these updates elsewhere for now. If you’re reading them, it’s because you clicked through here yourself (or subscribe via RSS), which is pretty damn cool.

Thank you for being here.

Written by Glen Allsopp, the founder of Detailed. You may know me as 'ViperChill' if you've been in internet marketing for a while. Detailed is a small bootstrapped team behind the Detailed SEO Extension for Chrome & Firefox (250,000 weekly users), trying to share some of the best SEO insights on the internet. Clicking the heart tells us what you enjoy reading. Social sharing is appreciated (and always noticed). You can also follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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