As they remain locked in a struggle for the loyalties of online publishers, the escalating war of features and widgets between Google and Facebook is getting serious. Especially with Google’s decision to roll out the big guns.
This week, the Financial Times reports that Google is putting its formidable artificial intelligence capabilities at the disposal of publishers in order to boost their digital subscription sales.
According to the FT, Google is already working on new AI tools for developing more sophisticated sub-sales strategies with News Corp., The New York Times and the FT.
The AI programs will draw on Google’s own user data to identify likely subscribers and produce individualized marketing offers. Google will introduce similar programs for other publishers in the near future, promising to revolutionize the laborious and sometimes cost-intensive process of marketing subs for a wide range of media companies.
In addition to targeting potential subscribers and tailoring marketing messages, Google may also help publishers in areas like processing online payments, streamlining the sales process and making it easier for new subs to sign up.
The company could aid publishers by offering more refined systems, allowing non-paying readers to sample subscription content without turning free access into a regular back door — a common complaint of publishers.
In addition to working with publishers on sub sales, Google is preparing to end its “first-click-free” feature, which allowed users to circumvent publishers’ attempts to limit free access to their sites by accessing them via search results.
Google is also moving to placate reputable publishers — as well as politicians and regulators — by suppressing fake news in favor of trustworthy content on its search platform.
Facebook has been making a number of similar moves, many in response to Google. It hopes to stem growing dissatisfaction among publishers that have struggled to monetize content distributed by the tech giants.
For example, Facebook is forbidding the practice of advertisers rewriting or editing news article headlines, blurbs and descriptions when they promote content. Facebook will not demand a share of subscription revenues for subs sold on its platform.
Also, it started displaying small-publisher logos next to content in its trending and search features to help readers more easily identify news from trustworthy sources.