Microsoft’s vision for a thriving content ecosystem in a world of generative AI

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What got lost other than talking about Bing adding ads to Chat (ads were already there) is that the new Bing goal is to “bring more traffic and revenue to publishers” content creation It was a blog post from Microsoft trying to assure anyone.

“The internet works because publishers want to create great content, drive traffic and interest to people to consume that content, and ultimately reach people in a high-quality, targeted environment. Because there is a significant ecosystem of advertisers.”

– Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft Corporate Vice President, Modern Life, Search, and Devices, “Driving more traffic and value to publishers from the new Bing”

Mehdi was addressing the content creator community’s concerns that search engines delivering results assembled by generative AI (a.k.a. “chat” and “answers” on Bing) were upending the ecosystem. Value exchanges (content providers creating content in exchange for search engines sending monetizable traffic) overwhelmingly favor search engines.

Mehdi acknowledges the widespread concern by making this post. Why should Microsoft assure content creators that things will get better in a world of AI-driven search results?

Microsoft knows that content creators (publishers, content marketers, brands, and SEOs) are worried about the prospect of declining traffic and revenue.

Microsoft’s goals are laudable

Microsoft expresses its best intentions to all members.

Searcher first. “The new Bing will help us better serve people’s search needs with new features like chat, answers and content creation,” Mehdi wrote.

Microsoft’s vision is to “go beyond search and create the co-pilot for the web.” “People see the value in having search, chat, answer, and compose capabilities all in one experience,” he wrote.

It’s hard to argue against putting the user first, but it doesn’t guarantee that the results generated in this way won’t hurt content creators.

For publishers, Mehdi said Microsoft’s goals are to:

  • Increase traffic to publishers. Success is measured by the amount of traffic sent from the new Bing/Edge.
  • Increase publisher revenue. By driving more traffic to publishers with new features like Chat and Answers and sharing the revenue directly, we are pioneering the future of advertising in these new mediums.

All Traffic/Revenue, Microsoft Start Participant Traffic/Revenue

Microsoft claims that the benefits of adding a chat interface to search will work for all publishers. However, members of its Start program will receive the majority of these rewards.

For all publishers, the additional engagement generated by chat and the inclusion of quotes in chat results drives more traffic and creates opportunities for publishers to monetize that traffic.

Since Microsoft released the new Bing, traffic has increased by about 15%. According to the company, the service has about 100 million users and 100 million chats every day. About a third of these users are new to Bing. Microsoft concludes that these new users are an opportunity for publishers to get more traffic and sell more ads.

Launching in September 2021 and entering beta, Start is Microsoft’s version of Google News or Apple News. This is a personalized news portal available as a website or mobile app where you can manually add or remove Start publisher interests and content.

Star publishers include mainstream publications (such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Fox News, USA Today, etc.) as well as less mainstream publications such as The Past Factory, Stock Dork, and Neon Moon.

Microsoft is considering sharing advertising revenue with Start Partners who place ads in chat and provide content that contributes to chat responses.

Tactics to drive starter traffic include:

  • An “enhanced hover experience” where hovering over a link from a publisher reveals more links from that publisher, resulting in better user engagement and more traffic to the publisher’s website.
  • “Rich captions” next to chat answers help drive user engagement with content on Microsoft Start. Users who engage with Start’s content become catalysts for sharing ad revenue with partners.
Microsoft Start Enhanced Hover Experience

Start participation is “limited”

“This program is in beta and participation is currently restricted,” Mehdi wrote. 18 months beta. Publishers/bloggers are eligible to apply if they meet the following criteria:

  • Based in the United States, Germany, Spain, France, or Italy.
  • I post frequently and have an “active content site”.
  • Bloggers/non-news content producers typically need to produce at least 5 articles per month.
  • News publishers must produce a minimum of 10 articles per day, including live/breaking news.
  • You must use WordPress, Substack, Medium, or have a website that generates an RSS feed.
  • Fiction is not allowed.

What are the benefits? According to Microsoft, Start has “millions” of users every day, making it a good choice for brand building. You can also earn advertising revenue from content and reader rewards.

This is the message I received after filling out the “getting started” application.

Microsoft Start Application

Paid Publisher: Facebook Experience

Facebook dabbled in paid news publishers from 2019 to 2022.

According to a June 2022 WSJ article, the company has more than $100 million to publishers, including “more than $15 million to the Washington Post, just over $20 million to the New York Times, and more than $10 million to the Wall Street Journal.” I paid. .

Meta stopped paying US publishers in July 2022 after deciding to reduce the visibility of its news in members’ news feeds.

why we care

Microsoft has boldly announced its ambition to double its advertising business revenue to $20 billion in the next few years. Clearly, the company is betting that generative AI will play a role in its dominance.

Microsoft also recognizes it can’t do it alone, and is trying to convince publishers that its vision of a win-win publishing ecosystem can come true.

At this early stage, who can say Redmond’s Brain Trust is wrong?

It’s clear that traffic-hungry content creators have to hang in there for now. There is no alternative. (However, building your brand and investing in unmediated channels like email is smart.)

While it’s encouraging for Microsoft to acknowledge that publishers should be compensated for promoting the new Bing, we want to make the Start program even more transparent.

We understand that managing Start is a huge task, even for companies with Microsoft resources. Microsoft’s minimum obligation is to tell aspiring Start participants more about it. Here are some examples.

  • How many applications are approved each month?
  • How many program participants do you anticipate by the end of this year? 2024?
  • Will you publish your program roadmap to inform participants and aspiring participants of your plans and progress (e.g. amount of traffic to your member site, etc.)?

Finally, not mentioning Google’s vision for the future of content creators would be an omission. consider it done.

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