Renewed Interest: Publishers Increasing Focus On Subscriptions In Face Of Traffic, Ad Revenue & AI Challenges

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A recent Toolkits survey of publishing executives found that most are increasing their focus on building subscription revenue when compared to a year ago.

(Source: Toolkits)

“Seventeen said their focus has increased, 11 said it’s about the same as it was 12 months ago, and none said their focus on subscriptions has decreased,” writes Toolkits’ Jack Marshall of the 28 senior executives surveyed. “Other respondents noted that their companies’ perspectives on subscription revenue have not changed because it was already their primary revenue focus a year ago.”

The survey results stand against any suggestion that, as Marshall categorizes it, a “broad subscription reversal is underway.”

“It appears publishers abandoning subscription efforts are a small (and perhaps vocal) minority,” Marshall writes, “and their businesses could be facing fundamental challenges that aren’t directly related to their monetization approaches anyway.”

Marshall highlights challenges that are all too familiar to publishers: declining traffic, ad-revenue competition, and “the rise of AI licensing.” 

Google’s AI Overviews probably made more headlines over the last few weeks because of its rocky start out of the gates, but at the same time, OpenAI struck deals with News Corp (to get access to content from the Wall Street Journal, New York Post, and more), Vox, and even The Atlantic

These types of licensing deals are probably not in the cards for all publishers, but as Marshall says, they could “give rise to a model where casual readership is monetized primarily on third-party platforms, and publishers focus their efforts instead on monetizing their most engaged audiences via subscriptions, events, and other products sold directly to audiences.”

Recurring revenue from the already engaged is what subscription management software like ChargeBrite is all about, providing the technology and flexibility to experiment with billing options and complementary services. As Toolkits’ survey suggests, now is the time to increase those focuses.



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