The launch of ChatGPT is accelerating lifestyle publishers’ move away from SEO-driven content

As a result, lifestyle publishers like Bustle Digital Group and Leaf Group are shifting resources away from SEO-driven content and towards original stories and personal shots. BDG’s editorial move will also prioritize original visual content, specifically “relatable, humorous, shared experiences [and] Advisory stories,” said Wes Bonner, director of social affairs and audience development at BDG. On Hunker, Leaf Group’s home design website, there will be a focus on content that reflects the “taste, opinion, expertise and point of view” of the writers, said Eve Epstein, SVP and GM of Hunker.

But this shift is no small feat. While BDG, Leaf Group, and lifestyle publisher Trusted Media Brands haven’t seen a significant change in their search traffic share since the launch of ChatGPT in November, search traffic makes up 25-30% of search traffic and 80% of BDG’s traffic from trusted media brands. Leaf Group declined to share how much of their traffic comes from search.

If AI chatbots take over the role that Google search currently has, it becomes a “bigger problem that we need to solve,” said Beth Tomkiw, chief content officer of Trusted Media Brand. “I hope there will still be a place – even if it’s a smaller place – for the quality of work that comes from a real human being,” she added. While Tomkiw is in talks about what this would mean for TMB’s editorial strategy, no changes are taking place.

Taking down search-driven content isn’t necessarily a new move for publishers—it’s just accelerating. History tells us that the scale model in which publishers chase clicks to build an audience doesn’t typically work to drive a successful business. It’s one of the reasons why publishers have worked in recent years to build direct relationships with their audiences – from subscriptions to newsletters – to rely less on platform referral traffic.

READ :  Nvidia earnings overshadowed by Microsoft, ChatGPT, OpenAI, gaming partnership

“For publishers who are still very focused on pageviews as their primary metric, that’s going to be a bit of an issue,” said Jim Robinson, founder of Clickseed, an SEO and audience development consultancy that works with publishers. “If that was your strategy, you might be a little behind the curve anyway.”

BDG shifts resources away from SEO

Aware of the impact AI chatbots are likely to have on the way people use search, BDG is driving the move away from SEO-based stories and short messages to drive traffic, said Emma Rosenblum, chief content Officer at Bustle Digital Group.

A lot of digital media companies “were just built on the basic traffic of these service stories, which I now think won’t be necessary in the next five years … because these technologies will do it much better, much faster, and much cheaper than a human being will do it.” Getting paid to write these search-based stories can do it,” Rosenblum said.

“We don’t want to do these stories,” she added. “This benefit that we provide is going to disappear so quickly. And I’m glad because we hate stuff like that. … We will invest our money in all the things that a computer could not replicate.”

BDG is investing in more original visual content, interviews, profiles and reports, Rosenblum said. While this means that BDG will produce less content overall, the company will produce more short videos for social media distribution. A chatbot cannot “try on jeans” and produce images of a pair of jeans on different body types, Bonner said.

READ :  ProfoundBio Announces Initiation of First-in-Human Study for PRO1184, a Folate Receptor-Alpha-Targeting ADC with a Topoisomerase-1 Inhibitor Payload, and Receives FDA Study May Proceed Letter for PRO1160, a CD70-Targeting ADC | DNA RNA and Cells

Lifestyle publishers’ “most valuable assets are their photography and visuals to bring to content,” now that ChatGPT is in the know, said Melissa Chowning, founder and CEO of audience development and marketing company Twenty-First Digital.

When asked how BDG plans to make up for potential traffic losses with these changes, Rosenblum said in an email that the company “doesn’t plan to make any effort to make up for potential traffic losses… If traffic goes down a little, it goes down.” Chasing Google is a losing war for digital media companies, which is why we are building areas of our business like events and newsletters, both of which are not dependent on external platforms.” For example, the company’s newsletter business has grown to over 5 million subscribers, which is a annual growth of 32%.

Less traffic means fewer eyeballs to show ads to, which could negatively impact BDG’s business. However, Ronsemblum said programmatic revenue will continue to be a “small” part of their business going forward, with the “lion’s share” of revenue coming from direct mail. “In this new world, we anticipate tremendous growth in our event and newsletter revenue, offsetting potential programmatic losses,” she said.

The introduction of AI chatbots remains to be seen

The Leaf Group’s Epstein believes the launch of ChatGPT is simply a “continuation” of the evolution of Google search and not “completely new or surprising.” Publishers have already come to expect featured snippets, a feature introduced in 2014 (with a major update in 2020) that pulls a section from a publisher’s page to answer a user’s prompt directly on the Google search page.

READ :  Campaign to educate young craftsmen about asbestos risks

However, the adoption of chatbots remains to be seen, and for that reason it would be “premature” for a publisher to “actually implement a really significant shift in strategy” at this point, Robinson said. For now, publishers should monitor their referral traffic analytics to see if a real shift in user behavior is occurring, he said.

“I think these discussions are urgently needed,” said Clickseed’s Robinson. “This plan is good anyway, even if you take ChatGPT out of the picture. Who wants to give Google all this power?”