illustration of the number five, representing the five subscription business topics for this column, Five-on-Friday

Five on Friday: Plans, Paywalls and Pairing Up

Featuring WhatsApp, Quartz, National Geographic, Disney and YouTube

New subscription plans, dropping paywalls and partnerships are in this week’s edition of Five on Friday. WhatsApp is entering the subscription market, Quartz drops its paywall after three years, and National Geographic and Disney+ are pairing up. Also, YouTube expands the rollout of its tip jar, and big tech companies like Meta and Google will have to reveal their proprietary algorithms under new EU legislation, the Digital Services Act.

WhatsApp to Introduce Subscription Plan for Multi-Device Support

WhatsApp could be coming to the subscription market soon, reports Android Police. The popular communications app recently developed support for multiple devices – something competitor Telegram has offered for years – and they’re hoping to expand their offerings. Android Police says the WhatsApp may be building more into their WhatsApp Business platform.

Whatsapp messenger application on android smartphone screen
Source: Adobe Stock Photos

With their new feature, users can link four devices, so they can access their communications tools even if their phone is dead. However, with a subscription, they can support up to 10 linked devices on business account. This could allow a business to use one point of contact to talk to their customers and allow multiple employees from a business to utilize a chat for one customer.

On the WhatsApp Business site, the company said the app is free to download, and it allows businesses to connect directly with their customers, including highlighting products and services and answering customer questions. Companies who use WhatsApp Business can create a catalog to showcase products and services, and even use special tools that help business owners automate, sort and quickly respond to customer inquiries.

9 to 5 Mac said the subscription plan is not available on the Business app yet, but it will be available in a future update of WhatsApp Business Beta. The Economic Times reported that those who did not want to opt-in would still be able to utilize WhatsApp Business’ complimentary features. Meta said there were no changes to the cost of WhatsApp Business.

Quartz Drops Paywall, Is Acquired by G/O Media

Going against the paywall trend, business news publisher Quartz is dropping its metered paywall. The company made the announcement earlier this month. Though frequent site visitors will have to register their email address to access content, the majority of the site’s content will be free. Zach Seward, chief executive and co-founder of Quartz, said the paywall was limiting Quartz’s influence and reader traffic.

Quartz will keep their membership program for current subscribers, allowing them exclusive access to two Quartz emails: The Forecast and Weekend Brief. Currently, these emails reach 21,000 subscribers combined.The publisher will continue to offer paid products, but their newly-free content will include all of Quartz’s articles, field guides, essentials, and more, according to the Press Gazette. A visit to the site shows that subscription options are still available for those who want to support the site and journalism.

“Our members have clearly expressed that their number one motivation for paying for a membership is that they love Quartz and want to support the truly global and thoughtful business journalism that we do,” Seward said.

Seward expressed excitement with this move, and said they were expecting to see traffic growth with this move, said The New York Times.

Yesterday, G/O Media announced they plan to acquire Quartz which will join its portfolio of brands that includes The A.V. Club, Deadspin, Gizmodo, Jalopnik, Jezebel, Kotaku, Lifehacker, The Root, and The Onion.

“Acquiring Quartz adds to our already unparalleled portfolio of sites that are beloved by readers and embraced by advertisers,” said G/O Media CEO Jim Spanfeller in an April 28 news release. “The digital business news space is an area ripe for investment and synergies with our other G/O Media sites. Quartz’s commitment to quality and mission-driven journalism embodies the values espoused in all of our brands, and I look forward to working with the talented Quartz team to grow the business to new levels of success.”

After the deal closes, Seward will join G/O Media as general manager and editor-in-chief of Quartz. Katherine Bell, the Quartz’s editor-in-chief since January 2020, will continue to work for the publisher as an advisor.

“Quartz’s progressive business journalism and our vital coverage of the global economy will now reach even more people by joining the G/O Media network,” said Seward. “We’ll be able to serve readers in new ways and continue to grow the advertising and membership revenue that supports Quartz’s vital work. I am particularly proud that there are no layoffs connected to the acquisition, nor planned once we integrate. This is a plan for long-term growth.”

National Geographic Pairs Up with Disney+

Nature isn’t the only thing branching out. National Geographic is partnering with Disney+ in a new premium subscription bundle. Users can subscribe either monthly, annually or for two years at a time.

For $10.99 per month, users will be able to access exclusive content and access NatGeo.com, the Nat Geo app, and the full online archive. Users will also get a print subscription for Nat Geo Kids, receiving 10 issues per year, and an annual special edition of Nat Geo: Year in Pictures. A subscription to Disney+ is also included in this bundle. Yearly access gets all the same perks, but will cost a user $109 a year. Additionally, subscribers can purchase a two-year bundle for $190. iMore also shared that there would be subscriber-only benefits and discounts to go along with this bundle.

This offer is meant to combine different National Geographic strings together and give interested parties different means to consume content, The Hollywood Reporter said. Nat Geo is already a central part of Disney+’s app with its own tile. With the introduction of this bundle, families and other subscribers can dive deeper into the world around us.

In February, Nat Geo launched over a dozen programs that were going to be exclusively on the streaming service this year.

Of the pairing, VP of Marketing at National Georaphic, Julie Galvin said, “We saw an opportunity to make it easier and more accessible to pull together the best of National Geographic. It gives people the opportunity to explore more topics when and how they want, but also just due to the depth and breadth of our content, really take a deep dive on topics that are interesting to them.”

In addition, Disney unveiled that subscribers of Disney+ can save up to 25% on rooms at select Disney Resort hotels for stays most nights between July 8 and September 30 of this year.

Nat Geo Premium with Disney+ bundle hero ad
Source: Nat Geo and Disney

YouTube Expands ‘Super Thanks’ Monetization Program for Creators

Last year, YouTube started testing a Super Thanks tip jar featuring, allowing viewers to give their favorite creators “super thanks.” On Tuesday, YouTube announced they were expanding the program to all eligible creators across 68 locations in the YouTube Partner Program. YouTube fans can purchase Super Thanks varying in price from $2 to $50, and can use those Super Thanks to support creators and content they love. In addition, viewers are now able to customize their Super Thanks comments, so they can create more meaningful engagement between viewers and creators.

“With today’s expansion, Super Thanks is now available to millions of monetizing creators in 68 countries, and is available to viewers on desktop and mobile devices. Creators can enable Super Thanks via YouTube Studio to earn a new source of revenue from videos with just one click – no extra setup work or maintenance needed,” wrote Samantha Stevens, product manager of paid digital goods for YouTube, in an April 26 blog post.

“At YouTube, we’re always looking for fresh ways creators can diversify their revenue streams. There are now 10 ways for creators to make money on YouTube, and we can’t wait to see how you use Super Thanks,” Stevens added.

This is one of 10 ways that creators can monetize on YouTube.

EU’s Digital Services Act Imposes New Rules on Big Tech

Earlier this week, the European Parliament and EU Member States agreed to the proposal on the Digital Services Act originally proposed in December 2020. The goal of the act is to provide accountability to regulators by big tech companies, ensuring that the rights of users be considered and to create a single set of rules that apply to all companies. Under the new legislation, companies like Google and Meta will have to reveal their algorithms.

“Today’s agreement on the Digital Services Act is historic, both in terms of speed and of substance. The DSA will upgrade the ground-rules for all online services in the EU. It will ensure that the online environment remains a safe space, safeguarding freedom of expression and opportunities for digital businesses. It gives practical effect to the principle that what is illegal offline, should be illegal online. The greater the size, the greater the responsibilities of online platforms. Today’s agreement – complementing the political agreement on the Digital Markets Act last month – sends a strong signal: to all Europeans, to all EU businesses, and to our international counterparts,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyan.

Margrethe Vestager, executive vice president for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age, also commented on the historic legislation:

“With the DSA we help create a safe and accountable online environment. Platforms should be transparent about their content moderation decisions, prevent dangerous disinformation from going viral and avoid unsafe products being offered on market places. With today’s agreement we ensure that platforms are held accountable for the risks their services can pose to society and citizens.”

As The Verge points out, this is not the same legislation agreed to in March – the Digital Markets Act. This piece of legislation places new obligations on platforms to remove illegal content and goods quickly, explain their algorithms, and take stricter action to prevent the spread of disinformation and misinformation. Companies can be fined up to 6% of their annual turnover for failure to comply. This legislation only applies to citizens of the European Union, but it is possible the legislation could spur on similar scrutiny in other nations including the U.S.

Several obligations outlined in the DSA include the following:

  • Advertising cannot be targeted based on a person’s religion, sexual orientation or ethnicity.
  • Advertising cannot target minors.
  • Dark patterns are prohibited.
  • Algorithms used to recommend content must be transparent to users.
  • Hosting services and online platforms will explain why illegal content has been removed and provide a mechanism for users to appeal these decisions.

Companies with at least 45 million users in the EU will endure the most scrutiny. According to The Verge, the rules apply to all companies 15 months after the DSA is voted into law, or from January 1, 2024, whichever is later.

European Union under a gavel, signifying the passage of the EU's new Digital Services Act.
Source: Envato Elements

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