- TechCrunch shuttered its subscription product, TechCrunch+, after a five-year run.
- Disney is next to crack down on account sharing, with plans to limit abuse across its Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ services beginning next month.
- Subscription payments are increasingly failing because of insufficient funds in consumers’ accounts, new data suggest.
TechCrunch shutters its subscription product
Yahoo-owned tech publication TechCrunch is cutting around eight staff members and shutting down its TechCrunch+ subscription product as part of a broader restructuring, Adweek reported. “We’ll be sunsetting the TechCrunch+ subscription product in the coming weeks and will refocus our talented writers and editors on strengthening our core product,” editor-in-chief Connie Loizos reportedly wrote in a memo. “Building around two businesses hasn’t allowed us to focus where we can win.”
What went wrong: Although some industry observers might ascribe the closure to subscription models “hitting their limits”, the closure of the 5-year-old subscription offering might be largely due to the fact it never quite found a value proposition enough of its audience was willing to pay for. Meanwhile, other parts of the publication’s business – specifically events – stand to benefit from having more of its content open to non-paying audiences.
Disney is next to crack down on account-sharing
Disney-owned streaming services including Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ will begin restricting subscribers from sharing accounts with others beginning March 14. Subscribers to each of those services were notified by email over the past two weeks that their user agreements have been updated to state: “You agree not to impersonate or misrepresent your affiliation with any person or entity, including using another person’s username, password or other account information.”
Disney’s change follows in the footsteps of streaming rival Netflix, which last month said its own account-sharing crackdown helped it add 13.1 million new subscribers during the October-December period – the most it has ever posted in the fourth quarter. On a conference call with analysts, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said the company was “thrilled” with the results of the move, while its other co-CEO, Greg Peters, said it remains confident that it can convince more account-sharing viewers to pay up for their own plans in future. “That (crackdown) will improve our growth for years,” he said.
Will publishers follow? As we explored last week, most publishers have been reluctant to crack down heavily on the sharing of passwords and accounts to date, and our reporting early last year found that password sharing was not seen as a pressing concern by most publishers. Fast forward 12 months and those sentiments may begin to shift as publishers’ subscription businesses mature and their need for revenue becomes more acute. And with streaming giants such as Netflix and Disney leading the charge, more publishers will likely reconsider their approaches too.
Subscription payments are increasingly failing because of insufficient funds
Rates of payment decline due to a limitation of funds were higher in November 2023 than at any point over the prior five years, according to data from Recurly. Limitation of funds typically means a transaction is rejected because the customer either does not have enough money in their bank account or has hit the limit on their credit card.
Recurly’s vice president of business intelligence, Brian Geier, suggested several factors could help explain the increase, including rising interest rates and inflation, mounting consumer debt, and depletion of savings amassed by many consumers during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Yet another headwind: While insufficient funds failures might not top publishers’ list of concerns for 2024, it’s another one to add to the list. Retaining subscribers is becoming increasingly challenging as publishers look to graduate customers from cheap introductory rates to more meaningful financial commitments, and consumers are asserting more control over exactly how and when they’re billed for recurring products. Revenue challenges for publishers continue to mount as 2024 progresses.
Unlocking growth through diversity
The Audience Diversity Academy is an FT Strategies and Google News Initiative program helping publishers unlock their growth potential amongst younger and female audiences. Read the report for learnings, practical experiments, and inspiration to future-proof your audience development strategy. [Sponsored]
The Messenger shutters after just 8 months
As tempting as it might be to blame the economic headwinds facing all media companies for The Messenger’s demise, the most likely explanation is that a fundamentally flawed business model and terrible execution are to blame for it burning through $50 million in under a year.
Apple approaches news publishers with AI deals
Apple is asking permission to use news content to train its own generative AI systems and is reportedly offering hefty payments for doing so.
NYT sees success with games amid media chaos
The NYT’s Games app was downloaded 10 million times and games were played more than 8 billion times last year, the company said. “Our vision is to be the premier subscription destination for digital puzzles,” Jonathan Knight, NYT’s head of games, told Axios.
Norwegian news publisher Dagens Næringsliv used games to drive 35,000 registrations from younger audiences.