Now in the News: Publishers Grapple With Increasingly Complex Subscription Renewal Laws

March 6, 2023

Publishers Grapple With Increasingly Complex Subscription Renewal Laws

Operating subscription products legally in the U.S. is becoming more challenging as states across the country pass new laws and amend existing ones to regulate subscription businesses more closely. The growing patchwork of laws and regulations is proving increasingly complicated for publishers and other companies to navigate, and some are finding themselves potentially exposed to legal action as a result.

States have stepped up their scrutiny of subscription models in recent years, specifically around automatic renewal charges and the provision of free trials. At least 20 states now have laws in place regulating subscription models, but local legislatures continue to pass new laws and revise existing ones.

Legal experts say compliance is becoming more complex as new requirements are added regularly. Multiple states introduced or updated subscription-related laws in 2022, for example, with California, Colorado, Delaware and Illinois each adding new requirements around clearer renewal notices and more robust cancellation options.

“States are imposing more granular requirements around subscriptions and it’s likely we’re going to see more states with laws on the books,” said Julie O’Neill, a partner at law firm Morrison & Foerster who specializes in consumer protection compliance.

Specific legal requirements vary between states, but states such as California and New York impose particularly stringent rules designed to ensure companies communicate subscription terms to consumers prior to purchase, gain explicit consent to charge customers on an ongoing basis, and provide straightforward cancellation mechanisms and procedures.

German Publisher Axel Springer Says Journalists Could Be Replaced By AI

Owner of Politico urges focus on investigative journalism and original commentary, as company prepares for job cuts at German papers Die Welt and Bild

Journalists are at risk of being replaced by artificial intelligence systems like ChatGPT, the CEO of German media group Axel Springer has said. The announcement was made as the publisher sought to boost revenue at German newspapers Bild and Die Welt and transition to becoming a “purely digital media company”. It said job cuts lay ahead, because automation and AI were increasingly making many of the jobs that supported the production of their journalism redundant. “Artificial intelligence has the potential to make independent journalism better than it ever was

– or simply replace it,” CEO Mathias Doepfner said in an internal letter to employees.

AI tools like the popular ChatGPT promise a “revolution” in information, he said, and would soon be better at the “aggregation of information” than human journalists.“Understanding this change is essential to a publishing house’s future viability,” said Doepfner. “Only those who create the best original content will survive.”

Axel Springer did not specify how many of its staff could be cut, but promised that no cuts would be made to the number of, “reporters, authors, or specialist editors”. In his letter to staff, Doepfner said media outlets must focus on investigative journalism and original commentary, while divining the “true motives” behind events would remain a job for journalists.

Better Newspapers Buys Two Legacy Magazines

Better Newspapers, Inc. (BNI), headquartered in Mascoutah, Illinois, announced today that it has finalized the purchase of two long-standing magazines in Arcola, Illinois, to expand its Central Illinois publication roster. The two publications are the 111-year-old Broom, Brush & Mop (BBM) magazine and Discover magazine, an annual tourism guide. Both magazines were sold by Rankin Publishing, Inc.

Greg Hoskins, owner of BNI, noted that both publications began with the Arcola Record-Herald, which BNI purchased in July 2022. He said the two publications add resources and diversity to the company’s growing portfolio.

Linda Rankin, owner of Rankin Publishing, Inc., said BBM began more than 111 years ago as a regular feature in the newspaper. It was called the Broom Corn Corner and focused on the broom and broom corn industry, which has a rich history in the Arcola area. Arcola is still home to several related businesses including the largest manufacturer of cleaning products in the U.S.

The newspaper feature about the industry morphed into a newsletter titled Broom and Broom Corn News. Rankin and her husband, the late Don Rankin, purchased the newspaper and the broom publication in 1977, and changed the name of the niche publication to Broom, Brush & Mop magazine to reflect the changing needs of the industry. It has become the authoritative resource for industry information with an international audience.

Rankin said she’s pleased that the magazine is “back where it began.” She said her husband also would have been happy that the magazine will continue to be published in Arcola. Discover is another publication that Rankin and her husband developed when they owned the newspaper. It started out as a flyer promoting local tourism, she said. It is now the leading tourism guide throughout East Central Illinois. Hoskins said BNI is well positioned to continue to grow Discover magazine to promote tourism across the middle third of the state.