Paid for subscriptions in the AI era: the hows and whys.

If you were to take just one thing away from this newsletter, it’s that focusing on engagement rather than views is vital if you hope to build a model for the future. AI-generated content is going to overwhelm everything… so our belief is that you need to become engagement experts if you want to develop paid subscription and we can help you do that!

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Much of the attention of journalists is rightly focused on whether AI will replace them. Media owners, meanwhile, may be wondering what impact it will have on profitability, especially since Goldman Sachs predicts that AI will replace 300 million jobs, while increasing the annual value of goods and services by 7%.

But hold on a moment. If the introduction of AI into newsrooms were driven purely by economics, there is a serious risk that AI will not just replace journalists, but kill existing media in the process.

The problem, as Reuters Institute recently pointed out, is that people are increasingly turning away from the news, and with the more systematic use of AI-generated stories that may not be convincing, this trend is likely to accelerate; as journalists at Gizmodo, a tech news site, were quick to point out during the initial tests.

Talking in an INMA Webinar, Edward Roussel of the Times said of AI generated news that “What that does is turn that category of news into a commodity. In other words, something that people are unlikely to want to pay for.”  Edward Roussel is a man worth listening to on this point, since he helped usher in the paid for subscription model of the Times. That model just saw Times Media profits double as it added 70,000 digital-only subscribers (nb paywall – because…digital subscription).

Which brings us to the heart of the problem.  Readers are abandoning traditional news, and AI news is only going to accelerate that. So how does a news platform survive, and even thrive, through paid subscriptions?

The answer, according to Roussel, is to focus not on clicks or views but instead on engagement.  The idea is to then drill down into encouraging the engaged audience because they are the ones who will reach for their wallets as long as we continue to serve them what they want. 

Which makes sense to us at Upgrade Media.  

We are strong believers in the truism that you can only manage what you can measure. Which is why we study the social media engagement of key terms from key titles . We see what subjects will reward further effort, and what is simply not getting the engagement that leads to subscription.  We have more on measuring how different topics work with different audiences here. 

But if you’d really like to know how we can help you understand your audience and maximise your resources to better serve them, then get in touch. 

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About Upgrade Media: Upgrade Media is a creative agency, strategy consultancy, training center and media transformation think tank, through its brand New World Encounters.

◾️ We work for media and communicating companies to accelerate their digital transformations, evolve their organizations, print and digital products, and also develop team agility.

◾️ Check out our Upgrade Media website to learn more about our projects and approach.

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