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Apple’s new headset and journalism
Plus, how one publisher uses “next-action modeling” to retain subscribers
I have to say, Apple’s new Vision Pro headset is impressive. Many of the features are truly surprising:
You “click” by moving your eyes and pinching your fingers together (no controller).
You spin a small dial to move between virtual reality and augmented reality.
The resolution is so good that you can read comfortably.
While you’re using the device, others can see your eyes, sort of like in sunglasses.
In true Apple fashion, the company has created a novel user interface. Apple’s long term vision is for headsets to replace many of the devices we use today.
It will be a while before publishers need to worry too much about headsets (Apple expects to sell only 900,000 in the first year), but let's take a moment to imagine what Apple’s long term vision would mean for the news industry, if it comes to pass.
We can reflect on what led to the news industry's transformation over the past several decades. Although the personal computer and the Internet rose to prominence around the same time, it was the Internet – not the computer – that was disruptive for news. Distributing physical papers had been a competitive moat, and the Internet eliminated it.
When Apple launched the iPhone, publishers reacted with new formats. But mobile didn’t alter the underlying business dynamics of the news ecosystem. In both the desktop & mobile eras, the Internet drove change by eliminating distribution costs, enabling anyone to publish on the web. Mobile was simply an accelerant of this trend.
In a world filled with headsets, publishers will also have an opportunity to explore new formats. Fruitful areas to explore might be tactful notifications, live digital events, and “video podcasts” that feel in-person. And we’ll also have to figure out how to optimize for the “search” of that era – maybe an embodied AI that answers questions you ask aloud?
But even in a headset-dominated world, today’s fundamentals of the news ecosystem will remain.
Belgian publisher Mediahuis uses “next-action modeling” to predict which marketing activity is best for a given user. According to Mediahuis’s Jessica Bulthé, “you know which campaigns to show [users] without the manual effort, because your data model has learned from previous customer journeys and is now prepared to increase the customer lifetime value.” This process led to doubling down on a couple tactics:
Retention increased 14% by making phone calls to users with a high propensity to churn.
Retention increased 9% by sending a video from the editor-in-chief to users with a medium chance of churn.
Publishers shared retention strategies at the INMA World Congress. Some highlights:
The Washington Post focuses on subscribers’ first 14 days to encourage them to develop a daily habit around a topic or format.
Bloomberg sends 14 communications when onboarding subscribers; those who start listening to podcasts are highly likely to retain.
Advance Local is leaning into high school sports.
Hearst utilizes local newsletters and local lifestyle features.
And here’s the latest news in digital media:
The LA Times is eliminating 74 newsroom positions, or 13% of the total. “The restructuring stems from the same persistent economic headwinds facing news media across the country,” Executive Editor Kevin Merida told staff.
More on publishers:
Buzzfeed is exploring a sale of Complex Networks.
The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph will be put up for sale.
More on platforms:
Apple Podcasts will now enable users to connect their publisher subscriptions to the app. Publishers using the feature include Bloomberg, The Economist, WSJ, and WaPo.
Twitch is facing criticism from creators over restrictions on branded content.
Wordpress added an AI assistant to help with writing posts.
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