Updated Apr 9, 2024 - Business

Exclusive: Ex-Meta news executive Campbell Brown joins AI startup


Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Peabody

Media veteran Campbell Brown is joining TollBit as a senior adviser, Brown told Axios. The startup is building a marketplace between AI companies and media outlets.

Why it matters: Brown was highly sought after following her exit from Meta last year, given her experience brokering news partnerships.

  • Sources told Axios she was in discussions with OpenAI and other firms after her exit.
  • Brown would not comment on other opportunities she considered, but said she ultimately landed on TollBit "because I believe this is the right solution."

How it works: TollBit is building a marketplace that connects AI bots and scrapers to publishers' verified content for a dynamic fee that it helps both sides set.

  • Its model is meant to give AI companies the data they need to power real-time information for various large-language models, in addition to training their algorithms.
  • Brown will be responsible for overseeing TollBit's partnership efforts, focusing on media and tech companies.
  • The Boston-based startup recently raised $7 million in pre-seed and seed funding from several prominent media and tech investors, Axios' Dan Primack reported.

Zoom out: "We have to coalesce around an impartial marketplace. It's the only way to ensure the flow of accurate, reliable information across the internet," Brown said.

  • "Having had a foot in both media and tech, I really see this as a win for both sides," she added.
  • Before leading news and media partnerships at Meta, Brown was an Emmy award-winning journalist and anchor for CNN and NBC. She co-founded The 74, a nonprofit news company focused on education.

The big picture: AI firms are scrambling to broker deals with news firms on their terms while traditional copyright laws are tested in courts.

  • ChatGPT parent OpenAI has led the charge, striking multimillion-dollar deals with Axel Springer, the Associated Press and others.
  • The New York Times sued OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement last year, setting the stage for a high-profile legal battle that could set a precedent for how news companies are compensated by AI firms for the use of their content.

The bottom line: "This is one of the most consequential and urgent challenges that websites and publishers are facing," Brown said.

  • "Disruption is coming for every corner of the web, and anyone who relies on traffic to their site needs to be prepared."
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