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Publishers shifting strategies, chatbots to blame

Publishers AI chatbots have increased in popularity in recent months due to their distinct personality and ability to simplify work and learning.

Although they assist the great majority of people, they may put publishers at danger.

A new rival

Chatbots powered by generative AI may not only produce text but also respond to inquiries.

OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Microsoft’s upcoming ChatGPT-powered Bing may lure readers away from publishers.

Several lifestyle publications have abandoned SEO-driven content due to technological competition.

In contrast, Bustle Digital Group and Leaf Group develop unique material based on personal experiences and viewpoints.

Wesley Bonner, BDG’s head of social and audience growth, claimed that the company’s editorial shift will focus on original visual material.

According to Bonner, they would prioritize the creation of amusing stories about common situations and offer assistance.

Likewise, Hunker, Leaf Group’s home design website, has said that its content would be centered on the viewpoints, knowledge, and ideas of the writers.


The decision by the publishers to shift course marks a considerable investment.

Other lifestyle publishers, such as BDG, Leaf Group, and Trusted Media Brands, have not seen a notable increase in search traffic since the launch of ChatGPT in November.

Trusted Media Brands receive 80% of referral traffic from search, whereas BDG receives 25% to 30%.

According to Beth Tomkiw, chief content officer of Trusted Media Brands, AI chatbots taking over Google search will be a bigger problem.

“My hope is that there will still be a place – even if it’s a smaller place – for the quality of work that comes from a real human,” said Tomkiw.

She’s pondering what would have happened to TMB’s editorial approach if things had turned out differently.

While declining search-driven content is not a new issue for publishers, it is gaining traction.

Publishers have always utilized a scale strategy to obtain an audience, but it seldom works for organizations who have already demonstrated their success.

Instead, during the last decade, publishers have worked hard to develop connections with their customers, depending less on referral traffic via subscriptions and newsletters.

“For publishers who are still very focused on the page view as a primary metric, that’s going to be a bit of a problem,” said Jim Robinson, Clickseed’s founder.

Clickseed is an SEO and audience growth solution for publishers.

“If that’s been your strategy, you might be a little behind the curve anyway.”

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Shifting from SEO

People’s search habits have already been influenced by ChatGPT and AI chatbots.

According to BDG’s chief content officer, Emma Rosenblum, the firm is committed to shifting its traffic strategy away from SEO-driven content and short news bursts.

Web media firms, according to Rosenblum, were created on the low-hanging fruit of service stories that would almost surely be outmoded in the next five years.

She thinks that technological advancements will make it simpler, quicker, and less expensive than employing experienced writers.

“We don’t want to be doing those stories,” said Rosenblum. “That utility that we provide is going to disappear so quickly.”

“[And] I’m glad because we hate doing stuff like that. All the things that a computer could not replicate is where we’re going to put our money.”

Rosenblum claims that the corporation is investing in original visual content, interviews, profiles, and feature pieces.

As a result, they will post less social media updates and will produce more short films.

Melissa Chowning, the founder and CEO of Twenty-First Digital, noted that now that ChatGPT has established itself, photography and visuals have become the most crucial parts for lifestyle publications.

Rosenblum wrote an email outlining BDG’s strategy for compensating for anticipated traffic loss.

“If traffic dips a bit, it dips,” the email said.

“Chasing Google is a losing war for digital media companies, which is why we’re building up areas of our business like events and newsletters, neither of which are dependent on outside platforms.”

Furthermore, BDG’s newsletter business grew by 32% year on year, reaching 5 million subscribers.

The advertising will almost surely have an effect on BDG with less visits.

Yet, Rosenblum noted that programmatic income will continue to be a part of their business in the future, with cash coming through direct advertising.

“In this new world, we’re expecting our revenue from events and newsletters to grow enormously, offsetting any potential programmatic loss,” she added.

Chatbot adoption

The ChatGPT launch, according to Eve Epstein of Leaf Group, is a continuation of Google search’s evolution, which is nothing new.

Publishers had to deal with a “featured snippet” in 2014, which took a portion of a publisher’s website and used it to answer a user’s Google search query.

It remains to be seen, though, how the deployment of chatbots will turn out.

According to Robinson, major strategy shifts for publishers are premature.

He advised publishers to keep an eye on their referral traffic figures for any changes in user behavior.

“I think there is an immediate need to be having these discussions,” said Robinson.

“That plan is a good one anyway, even if you take ChatGPT out of the picture. Who wants to give all that power to Google?”

Image source: Search Engine Journal

Opinions expressed by Market Daily contributors are their own.