In this week’s Briefing:
News publishers add value to their subscription offerings
News publishers continue to add new features and benefits to their subscription products in an effort to boost the perceived value of their offerings. Those efforts are designed to drive retention and help publishers inch up pricing as they place greater emphasis on growing average revenue per user (ARPU) and other revenue-based metrics.
As the market for news subscriptions matures and moves beyond a land-grab growth stage, publishers are increasingly competing based on the strength and breadth of their content and products as opposed to price alone. That’s prompting many to add new features and perks to their existing subscription products and break apart existing features into standalone products to be repackaged and marketed as cost-effective “bundles.”
Among the top 50 subscription news publishers, 96% offered additional benefits beyond news articles in the second quarter of 2023, up slightly from 94% the previous year, according to INMA. Almost all publishers — 96% vs. 90% in the previous year — added additional features during the quarter, such as new apps, podcasts, or features such as article gifting.
More publishers also opted to package up individually priced products to be sold as “bundles”, following in the footsteps of publishers such as The New York Times. Thirty-seven percent of brands bundled this way during Q2 compared with 32% in the previous year.
We expect to see more news publishers offering multiple subscription products, designed to target the needs of more specific audience segments, create additional on-ramps for attracting new subscribers, and enable greater per-subscriber revenue generation by offering broad access via “bundles”. For some, this will mean positioning existing subscription features as standalone products, while others will look for opportunities to add new products that complement their existing offerings.
Major publishers attempt to block ChatGPT from accessing their sites
Nearly 20% of the top 1000 websites in the world are attempting to block crawlers for ChatGPT and other AI services, according to data from AI content detector Originality.AI. The Guardian, CNN, The New York Times, Reuters, Disney, Bloomberg, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Axios, Insider, ABC News, ESPN, Condé Nast, Hearst, and Vox Media, are among the companies attempting to limit access to their content.
“The scraping of intellectual property from the Guardian’s website for commercial purposes is, and has always been, contrary to our terms of service,” said a spokesperson for Guardian News & Media. Meanwhile, The New York Times has also updated its terms of service and is reportedly considering legal action against ChatGPT owner OpenAI.
While the prospect of users tapping AI chatbots for information instead of visiting websites is a concerning one for publishers across the board, it could pose a more immediate and pointed threat for publishers attempting to charge for access to content via subscriptions and other means.
Many publishers’ subscription products are predicated on the idea that they provide paying customers with exclusive reporting, analysis, data and other information that isn’t freely available elsewhere. If audiences can easily gain access to the same information for free via AI chatbots, however, convincing them to pay publishers directly becomes more challenging.
The potential for content “leakage” via chatbots could therefore concern some publishers more than others, depending on the nature of their subscription products and content. Those offering highly specialized or entirely unique information may view it as a more significant issue than general news publishers, for example.
Publishers continue to hunt for clarity on if and how their content is being used by ChatGPT and other AI services, how they can prevent them from doing so, and – more importantly – how they might be compensated via licensing payments or revenue sharing arrangements for granting access to their content.
Also worth noting:
- Recurly asked 6,000 consumers what makes for great subscriber experiences. The resulting report reveals key trends, tactics and approaches that can be used to drive sustainable business growth. [Sponsored]
- More publishers are offering audiences AI chatbots trained on their content. If successful, it’s likely such features could be folded into subscription offerings as publishers hunt for ways to make their offerings more “sticky” as they prioritize subscriber retention and monetization.
- Tribune Publishing faces a lawsuit over ‘deceptive’ billing practices, allegedly charging subscribers extra fees for features that were already part of their subscription agreements.
- Is retail media a threat to publishers’ ad businesses?