- Microsoft is in talks with publishers about how they can control which of their content informs responses given by its new Bing AI chatbot.
- Publishers are scrambling to understand if and how paywalled content is being used by generative AI platforms generally.
- Stat News’ chief operating officer, Angus Macaulay, joined the latest episode of the Subscription Publishing Show.
- Publishers in the UK say subscriptions offer the greatest potential for revenue growth over the next three years.
Microsoft is in talks with publishers about how Bing’s AI chatbot uses their content
Microsoft is in talks with publishers about how they can control which of their content is used to inform responses given by its new Bing artificial intelligence chatbot. The company told Toolkits that conversations are just beginning, but that it intends to update technical guidelines for publishers as needed in the months ahead.
Microsoft’s chatbot feature – launched in “preview” mode within its Bing search engine earlier this month – promises to provide direct answers to users’ questions using generative AI, rather than directing them to third-party sites.
Publishers have expressed concerns that the chatbot, and others like it, could threaten their business models if they result in search engines directing less traffic to their sites. They’ve also bemoaned a lack of clarity from Microsoft and other companies using generative AI about how their content is being used to inform the responses given by chatbots, whether publishers can prevent chatbots from weaving their content and information into responses, and – ultimately – if it’s even worth trying to stop them.
A Microsoft spokesperson told Toolkits that Bing’s chat function only draws from content that publishers have opted to make visible to it, but that Microsoft is “in conversation with publishers and will be updating technical guidelines as needed.”
The spokesperson declined to comment on whether all publisher content that’s made accessible to Bing’s crawlers is currently eligible to appear in chatbot responses, however, or whether Microsoft will enable publishers to control what information collected by the company’s crawlers might be surfaced in chatbot responses specifically. “As the new Bing experience is currently in preview these conversations are beginning and we’ll have more to share over time,” the spokesperson said.
AI chatbots could undermine publishers’ subscription products
Although the prospect of audiences tapping AI chatbots for information instead of visiting websites is concerning for publishers across the board, it could pose a more immediate and pointed threat for publishers attempting to charge for access to digital content.
Staffers at multiple publishers told Toolkits their technology and search engine optimization teams are now scrambling to understand if and how paywalled content is being used by AI chatbots.
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 could become more challenging.
Stat News generates 40% of its revenue from subscription products
STAT is a digital publication covering biotech, pharma and the life sciences. The company’s chief operating officer, Angus Macaulay, joined the latest episode of The Subscription Publishing Show to discuss the company’s push into high-priced data products, why it opted to build much of its subscription technology in-house, and whether economic instability could present an opportunity for publishers that deliver indispensable content for professional audiences.
UK publishers say subscriptions hold the most potential for revenue growth
When asked by the Association of Online Publishers where they see the most potential for revenue growth over the next three years, U.K. publishers pointed to subscriptions more than any other channel. Sponsorship and lead generation came second and third, respectively, followed by display advertising, events and ecommerce.
The publisher trade body surveyed a total of 96 digital publishers for its annual report, and found that consumer-facing publishers were more bullish about subscriptions than business-facing ones. In the survey, B2B publishers named lead generation (28%), events (22%), and sponsorships (20%) as having the most revenue growth potential, while B2C publishers said they’re looking towards subscriptions (17%), sponsorships (15%), and display advertising (13%).
Also worth noting:
- The “nice-to-have economy” is in decline, as consumers rein in their spending on pandemic-era luxuries and conveniences and allocate dollars more judiciously. With time and expendable income in shorter supply, the distinction between nice-to-have and essential products is becoming clearer. That’s putting pressure on consumer-facing companies across the board.
- Bloomberg Media has reached 450,000 subscribers globally and is on-course to reach 500,000 subscribers in the first half of 2023, according to CEO M. Scott Havens. Subscriptions have become an important new revenue stream for company for the company, but are also helping to build “more deeply engaged, more deeply understood users who can be served relevant advertising and become part of our communities at live events,” Havens said. As we’ve covered previously, for many publishers it’s becoming increasingly clear that a blend of advertising and subscriptions provides the optimal approach for maximizing revenue, driving sustainable growth, and meeting the needs and expectations of audiences.
- Gannett overhauled its subscriber onboarding approach and says it’s seen a boost in engagement among new subscribers as a result. (See our guide for more info on how to onboard subscribers effectively.)
- Netherlands-based news publisher NRC built a dedicated mobile app to deliver the audio content it produces. The company hopes the move might help lessen its reliance on major audio platforms for access to audiences because every time it shares content via platforms “somebody else makes money.”
- Meta is taking a page from Twitter’s playbook with a new subscription service that would let Facebook and Instagram users pay for verified accounts.