- Recent Google updates have resulted in major traffic changes for some publishers, creating uncertainty and confusion.
- How Bloomberg Media reached 500,000 subscriptions.
Google updates drive more uncertainty for news publishers
Some news publishers have been “profoundly impacted” by a string of recent updates to Google’s Search and Discover products, Press Gazette reports. Those changes have led to traffic fluctuations and reductions for some publishers’, impacting revenue.
Sites optimizing their content for specific search queries – such as explainer-style articles – appear to be among the hardest hit, while those offering better user experiences and carrying fewer ads report being less affected.
Google says its updates are not specifically targeted at publishers’ sites but that it aims to “show helpful and reliable results”. It rolled out its “helpful content update” in September and two “core” updates in October and November. “Core” updates are significant, broad changes to Google’s search algorithms and systems that tend to take place a few times a year – not twice in two months.
Implications for publishers: Google’s recent tweaks reinforce a couple of major themes and challenges facing publishers as they head into 2024:
- It’s becoming clear that the era of reliable organic distribution is drawing to a close, and those wishing to drive a consistent stream of traffic to their owned and operated properties should expect to pay for it. That shift could have significant implications for publishers’ conversion funnels and subscriber acquisition approaches, and may fundamentally change the underlying economics of their subscription businesses.
- Publishers with strong subscription and reader-revenue bases are faring better in the current environment than those without. Meanwhile, publishers that derive the majority of their revenue from advertising are increasingly finding their businesses exposed to volatility driven by the actions of Google and other third-party platforms.
How Bloomberg Media reached 500,000 subscriptions
Bloomberg Media‘s chief digital officer, Julia Beizer, offered some insight into how the business publisher reached 500,000 subscriptions in an interview with Press Gazette. Notable takeaways include:
- Subscriptions are now a major revenue stream alongside advertising and events, and first-party subscriber data is also helping to drive its ad business. “The benefit of being in subscription businesses is unbelievably clarifying and has really helped us say, hey, what do our subscribers need? Great, we’re going to develop that,” she said.
- 88% of subscribers are on annual terms, which the company believes reflects a dedicated and loyal subscriber base, and may help drive retention. (A significant portion of Bloomberg readers are likely expensing their subscriptions, however.)
- Markets coverage and technology-related content drive the most subscriptions for the publisher, and personal finance is another growing category.
- 60% of subscribers are in the U.S., 20% are in Europe and the Middle East, and 20% are in Asia Pacific.
- Enterprise subscriptions are an untapped opportunity. Given its B2B focus, the company hopes that group and enterprise subscriptions – which it’s just begun exploring seriously – will be a huge growth driver in the years ahead.
Over half of readers attempt to circumvent publishers’ paywalls
Over half of digital publication readers say they regularly look for ways to access paywalled content without paying, and two-thirds say they avoid sites with paywalls entirely, according to new research by Toolkits and National Research Group.
In a study of 1,007 U.S. consumers who have subscribed to digital publications, 58% said they typically look for ways to get around publishers’ paywalls without paying when they encounter them, down slightly from 63% who reported doing so in August 2022.
Sixty-eight percent said they avoid clicking links to websites they know use paywalls, down from 73% last year. And almost as many, 67%, also said they avoid clicking links to sites they know use registration walls.
What compels readers to pay for news?
Pleading for reader support, emphasizing community involvement, and delivering practical value for money are among the most successful tactics for converting subscribers, according to U.K. news publishers.
How The Guardian continues to drive print subscriptions
The Guardian has maintained its subscription growth in print while also growing its digital revenues and audience. Print now represents 25% of its total annual revenue, and is one of the most profitable areas of its business thanks to its ability to maintain a premium price point.