War of the words: ghostwriters vs AI

A new era of storytellers are quietly writing everything from LinkedIn hot takes to breakup texts. But, with the rise of new digital copywriting tools, does the human voice still hold the same value?
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Ghostwriters have long been known for being the secret wordsmiths behind juicy celebrity memoirs (see Prince Harry's latest book drama). But the skill of writing on behalf of someone else is expanding out of traditional formats. 

A new wave of social-media-savvy storytellers are quietly writing everything from venture capitalists' Twitter posts and LinkedIn hot takes to breakup texts for the avoidant dater. But, with copywriting tools powered by artificial intelligence (AI) threatening content at large (and with 44% of businesses in favor of using AI tech to lower operational costs), does the human voice still hold the same value?  

Writing for the workfluencer

Since the shift to working from home, social media has become the online water cooler for founders and venture capitalists (VCs). But the hunt to invest in the next big startup requires more than just money; VCs need to establish themselves with a personable online presence to connect with young business owners. 

Enter ghostwriting. Top investors are paying up to $100,000 to create Twitter posts on their behalf, while some ghostwriters focused on LinkedIn have raked in thousands of dollars to write thought leadership blog posts for CEOs (something that's likely to continue, given the uncertainty regarding Twitter's future and LinkedIn's growing influence on the back of heavy layoffs in the tech industry). 

Samantha McKenna left her role as LinkedIn's head of enterprise sales in 2019 to create her own consultancy after growing client demand: ‘We were approached early on by a client of ours who needed a voice on LinkedIn but didn't know what to write, didn't understand the algorithm and certainly didn't have the time to manage their presence,’ says Sam.

Now, with 120 clients and earning up to $700 an hour, her 13-person team ‘takes time to interview clients to understand not only who they are professionally, but also personally’, she says, from ‘listening to old podcasts, reviewing old articles and even sitting in on team meetings to hear their clients' voices to build expertise on their persona’. The end result could be anything from reviewing content and offering analysis on LinkedIn's algorithm to writing up to 16 posts per month. 

A better goodbye 

But the new opportunity in ghostwriting isn't limited to the professional world. The continually growing online dating world has come with a phantom of its own: ghosting – when someone exits a relationship without any prior notice, often leaving messages ‘on read’. This modern-day disappearing act has been found to have negative mental health consequences – regardless of whether you're the ghoster or the ghostee. 

Justine Ang Fonte, a consent educator and writer, set up @_good.byes_ in 2021 to counter the act of ghosting, inspired by their own dating life. They offer a unique ghostwriting service to create boundary-setting scripts in situations where clients need support to get their message across, to a client base of mostly women aged between 25 and 34.

‘I created this niche platform because my unique skill set as an educator in sexuality and health [means I] deeply understand the nuances in human relationships that challenge our abilities to assert our boundaries and honor those of others,’ they say. ‘I teach how to execute these values of communication and compassion to form meaningful human connection in a world of ghosters, even if you are saying goodbye.’

Ghost in the machine

With the rise of platforms like Jasper, an AI copywriting tool, and Microsoft's recent $10 billion investment into AI conversation tool ChatGPT, can ghostwriters continue to thrive, let alone survive? 

Abu Dhabi-based Greeshma Bharathan is a Gen Z strategic marketer who offers LinkedIn ghostwriting as a service. She believes that until AI can pick up on feelings, there's hope for the human voice yet. ‘AI can't provide the emotions and the human touch that we can,’ she says. ‘When I ghostwrite, I talk to my clients… I pick up on the kinds of jokes they make, what they get excited about, what matters to them. That's what the content I write for them reflects, too. [You] can't expect AI to pick up these idiosyncrasies.’

A version of this article was published in the Courier Weekly newsletter. For more useful stories, tips, tricks and simply good advice, sign up here.

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