Publishers – AI chatbots have gained popularity in recent months due to their innovative nature and ability to simplify work and learning.
Although they are helpful to the majority of people, they might represent a risk to publishers.
A new rival
Generative AI chatbots may not only produce text but also answer inquiries.
OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Microsoft’s upcoming ChatGPT-powered Bing may steal the audience that generates search-driven traffic for publishers.
Several lifestyle publications have abandoned SEO-driven content due to the competition caused by technology.
In contrast, Bustle Digital Group and Leaf Group develop original 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 that are related to common situations and offer some advice.
Likewise, Hunker, Leaf Group’s home design website, has said that its content would focus on the writers’ viewpoints, knowledge, and ideas.
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 earn 80% of their 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 is discussing what may have happened to TMB’s editorial approach if things had changed.
While reducing search-driven content is not a new issue for publishers, it is gaining popularity.
Historically, publishers use a scale approach to attract an audience, but it seldom works for firms that have already demonstrated their success.
Instead, publishers have worked to create connections with their customers during the previous decade, relying 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 service that focuses on publishers.
“If that’s been your strategy, you might be a little behind the curve anyway.”
Shifting from SEO
People’s search habits have already been changed by ChatGPT and AI chatbots.
According to Emma Rosenblum, BDG’s chief content officer, the firm is committed to shifting its traffic strategy away from SEO-based pieces and quick news bursts.
Rosenblum noted that online media companies were created on the low-hanging fruit of service tales that would most likely be outmoded in the next five years.
She stated that technology advancement will make it easier, quicker, and less expensive than hiring 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 business is investing in original visual content, interviews, profiles, and feature articles.
As a consequence, they will produce fewer social media posts and more short-form films.
Melissa Chowning, the founder and CEO of Twenty-First Digital, noted that now that ChatGPT has established itself, photography and visuals are the most significant assets for lifestyle magazines.
Rosenblum sent out an email outlining BDG’s strategy for compensating for the anticipated loss of traffic.
“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.
With less traffic, the advertisements will almost surely have an effect on BDG.
Yet, Rosenblum noted that programmatic revenue would continue to be a part of their business in the future, with funds 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.
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 section of a publisher’s website and used it to answer a user’s inquiry on Google search.
Nonetheless, it remains to be seen how things will turn out with the usage of chatbots.
According to Robinson, it is too early for publishers to implement significant strategic adjustments.
He recommended that publishers monitor their referral traffic statistics 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?”