The New York Times Wants To Go Its Own Way On AI Licensing

Expect the biggest media companies to use their market power to cut better deals with OpenAI and its peers.

When it’s time for news publishers and tech companies to negotiate, the rhetorical action is all about the little guy — the local newspapers, the rural publishers, the ones whose business models have taken the biggest beatings from Big Tech and who need the cash. But once rhetoric turns into reality, it’s usually the big dogs who end up getting fed.

In Australia, the government-mandated link tax has been generating a reported $50 million a year in Google/Facebook money for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp properties — while smaller publishers had to fight for a seat at the table. In the U.S., Google’s News Showcase — its “shut up, publishers, we’re paying for news now” scheme — gives the vast majority of publishers zilch, but it’s part of the $30 million-plus that Google reportedly gives The New York Times Co. each year.

The next arena for negotiation is over artificial intelligence — specifically, whether or not companies like OpenAI can use the news stories publishers have put online to train their AIs. Past iterations of those chatbots have been trained on roughly the entire Internet, but now publishers (among others) are seeking to be compensated for the contributions to global knowledge.

It’s still early days for this round, but a lot of familiar plays are being called by all sides. (OpenAI, for instance, has discovered newfound interests in journalism education and local news startups, with a checkbook to match.) And two stories from the past few days make me suspect the big dogs will come out on top again.

First, on Thursday, Adweek’s Trishla Ostwal noticed that The New York Times made a small change to its terms of service recently:

The New York Times updated its terms of services Aug. 3 to forbid the scraping of its content to train a machine learning or AI system. The content includes but is not limited to text, photographs, images, illustrations, designs, audio clips, video clips, “look and feel” and metadata, including the party credited as the provider of such content. The updated TOS also prohibits website crawlers, which let pages get indexed for search results, from using content to train LLMs or AI systems. Indeed, the updated TOS forbids using Times content in “training a machine learning or artificial intelligence (AI) system.”

The Des Moines Register Iowa Poll Partners With NBC News

Additional sponsorship support by Mediacom with polls conducted by Selzer & Company

The Des Moines Register, part of Gannett Co., Inc. and the USA TODAY Network have announced that NBC News will partner with the Des Moines Register for the Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa Poll (“The Iowa Poll”). The Iowa Poll is widely recognized for insights leading up to the 2024 Iowa presidential caucuses. The partners will work with Selzer & Company pollster J. Ann Selzer to develop questions that will be analyzed for broad distribution of polling results.

“The Iowa Poll has a storied history of setting the stage for the presidential election cycle,” said Carol Hunter, executive editor of the Des Moines Register. “We are excited to join forces with NBC News and our longtime partners Selzer & Company and Mediacom to bring Iowans and the nation impactful information about the thinking of likely participants ahead of the 2024 Iowa caucuses.”

“The 2024 presidential election is well under way and it’s critical to capture the thinking of the electorate at every stage of the cycle,” said NBC News’ Senior Vice President of Politics Carrie Budoff Brown. “NBC News is committed to covering this election from on the ground and across every state, talking to voters and reporting on the issues that matter most. The Iowa Poll is a crucial and trusted instrument in understanding the sentiment of voters ahead of the First in the Nation caucuses and we are delighted to work with the Des Moines Register and pollster J. Ann Selzer this cycle.”

Established in 1943, the Iowa Poll celebrates its 80th anniversary this year. Selzer & Company will conduct the Iowa Poll, which will be developed in partnership with NBC News and the Des Moines Register. Polling is conducted with a random sample of voters registered in the state of Iowa, including those registered as Republican, Democrat, no party, or other party. The Iowa Poll, which is closely watched by political observers, will inform voters leading into the important Iowa caucuses, which are scheduled for Jan. 15, 2024.

“The Iowa caucuses pose perhaps the most difficult challenge a pollster can face. The number of Iowans who typically show up is small, and participation changes — sometimes dramatically — from caucus cycle to caucus cycle. It’s our pleasure to work with The Register, with its deep roots in Iowa politics, and with the veteran political reporters and analysts at NBC News to help craft and interpret the results of our polls to serve the state and the nation with our best take on what is happening politically in the lead-up to the January 2024 caucuses,” said J. Ann Selzer, Selzer & Company. “As the state’s leading broadband provider, Mediacom recognizes the critical role our company plays in providing Iowa voters with access to information about key political and social issues,” said Tom Larsen, Mediacom’s senior vice president of government and public relations. “This is why we began our partnership with the Iowa Poll in 2015 and are proud to continue supporting this invaluable resource during the 2024 caucus cycle.

Telegraph Media Group Hits One Million Subscriptions

More than 70% of the subscriptions are digital. Telegraph Media Group says it has hit its target of reaching one million subscriptions before the end of 2023.

It has become the third UK national newspaper company to reach a major one million milestone, after The Guardian and Financial Times which reached a million paying readers online in December 2021 and March 2022 respectively.

TMG, which publishes The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, said that more than 70% of the one million subscriptions are digital and that “subscriber engagement is at a record high, with circa 300,000 of our subscribers now using our app each day”.

It was helped on the way to the target by its acquisition of Chelsea Magazine Company in March. In June, 207,876 TMG subscriptions were for CMC or the Telegraph Wine Cellar or Telegraph Puzzles products.

TMG said the figures are being independently audited by consultancy PwC and will be formally released in October.

Chief executive Nick Hugh said: “We set an ambitious goal for ourselves in 2018 and I am thrilled we have surpassed this milestone.“As we look to the future, we will continue to grow our subscriptions, develop our subscriber community and set new records for the Telegraph.

Why Publishers Are Investing In Non-News Verticals To Grow Revenue

Building strong verticals beyond hard news can be a useful investment.

The New York Times “bundle”, which gives subscribers access to core news along with its cooking app, games, Wirecutter reviews and The Athletic sports brand, is a key driver of the company’s revenue growth. In the last quarter, monthly average revenue per user was $13.40 for subscribers signed up to the bundle or at least two of the products, versus $9.29 for news-only subscribers.

“…increasingly, it’s this kind of constellation of products that surround the news – with the news being the sun in that analogy – and what we’re really finding is that we can just bring a lot more value to our subscribers, and engage them and retain them over longer periods of time, when we offer a suite of products,” NYT head of games Jonathan Knight told Press Gazette earlier this year.

The New York Times is not the only publisher investing outside core news verticals. As news fatigue has caused traffic to breaking news coverage to slump for some publishers, many are capitalising on growing audience interest in areas such as hobbies, lifestyle and special interests.

Gannett, publisher of USA Today and many US local newspaper brands, has launched several niche subscriptions including USA Today Sports+ and a special crossword product. In Europe, French title Le Figaro launched a standalone cooking app, Le Figaro Cuisine, in May last year to add to its dedicated games offering.

In the UK, The Times and The Telegraph both offer puzzles-only subscriptions, while verticals dedicated to cars, travel and gardening are also drawing in audiences to advertisers at newsbrands such as The Sun and The Independent. Luxury is another sector that is booming, with The Times, New Statesman Media Group and the Financial Times telling Press Gazette how targeting high-end advertisers and wealthy audiences is helping them bring in readers and revenue during difficult times.