The playbooks that publishers are using to retain their subscribers
PLUS an obituary for the Metaverse or at least this chapter in it
Retention is the theme of the year as publishers work hard to retain the subscribers that they won during the pandemic. Ed Garcia, head of retention at Immediate Media, said that they now are using this data to personalise the relationship that they have with their subscribers. And that is the theme that we are exploring in my day job in a report that we’re putting together on retention. Retention is so much about relationship management. And Garcia had some stunning numbers of how much retention goes up for print subscribers if they can engage them with premium digital content. They monitor digital signals and then send them personalised newsletters.
At Hearst UK, they have introduced something they call ‘friendly friction’, a simple pop-up for subscribers who try to cancel. These retention strategies from personalisation for protection to the technology that goes into trying to save cancellations is fascinating. Bookmark this one!
An obituary for the Metaverse
I’m reaching that point in my career where I have to guard against scepticism curdling into cynicism. I have seen a lot of digital fads in my career and some incredibly durable disruptive technologies. Distinguishing between those fads and truly disruptive technologies is a challenge. I had such high hopes for VRML in the 1990s and then Second Life in the 2000s, but both were phases of virtual worlds were disappointing.
First off, someday the Metaverse will be huge and transformative, although I believe that augmented reality will for a long time be more important than a purely virtual reality. However, that day has not come yet. And this time Mark Zuckerberg promised what he simply couldn’t deliver. Here’s what I said on Twitter.
Virtual reality - the vision is so enticing, but the technology isn't there yet. We expect Star Trek's holodeck and instead get an 8-bit version of it. The technology will get there but not yet. https://t.co/lJ4FpOFlds
— Mr Anderson (@kevglobal)
May 8, 2023
And the Business Insider piece is a devastating dismantling of the hype that brings the Metaverse back to reality.
Decentraland, the most well-funded, decentralized, crypto-based Metaverse product (effectively a wonky online world you can "walk" around), only had around 38 daily active users in its "$1.3 billion ecosystem." Decentraland would dispute this number, claiming that it had 8,000 daily active users — but that's still only a fraction of the number of people playing large online games like "Fortnite."
Ouch. AI has now taken the hype crown. The impact of AI is so much clearer in the short term than the Metaverse. We’ll see other chapters of virtual reality in our lifetimes, but it will take a few more phases of technological development before it is truly ready beyond applications like niche gaming.
News avoidance: Audiences want sense-making but are disappointed
Shirish Kulkarni has spent three years looking at news avoidance, and he tells journalism.co.uk that the term might be wrong. It puts the blame on audiences. They want information, but they are coming away disappointed, he says.
However, my news storytelling R&D over the last three years has shown that people desperately crave information that orientates them in the world and helps them understand it. They are crying out for journalism that fulfills a "sensemaking" role for them, but end up disappointed.
If there is a through line in my career, it is using data to tell stories - whether the audience is on a news website or the strategic leaders of a business. And this story highlights the power of data in storytelling and accountability journalism.
Meta may be struggling with the Metaverse but it still has a number of powerful properties, and it’s interesting to see how it is working to make money from WhatsApp.