Games Are Proving Their Pull on News and Tech Sites

What’s a five-letter word for an activity that media and technology companies are increasingly relying on to gain subscribers and keep them coming back?

G

A

M

E

S

Apple released a series of word-focused puzzles in its subscription news service last fall. LinkedIn, which is owned by Microsoft, debuted a set of word games this spring. News sites including Morning Brew, The Washington Post, Vox Media and The Boston Globe have added new puzzles beyond the crossword and hired staff to work on games. The publication you are reading has also invested in a collection of brainteasers.

It isn’t all fun and games, exactly. For media companies, games are a way to attract new customers as their sites face declining traffic from Google, X and Meta, which have backed away from emphasizing news. For tech companies with editorial offerings, the puzzles are a way to entice new subscribers while engaging existing users who may not return to the apps daily.

“A publication is more than the stories it produces. It’s an experience to look forward to, a pleasure,” said John Temple, a former journalist and co-founder of Amuse Labs, which sells a software platform that helps publishers create puzzles. “They want to recreate that same satisfying experience for people that they might have had over years of doing a crossword in the newspaper.”

Adding games and puzzles has become central to many publishers’ strategies over the past few years, with momentum spiking in recent months as Apple and LinkedIn jumped in. As these news and tech companies vie for consumer attention against competitors like Netflix, Spotify and other forms of digital entertainment, others are likely to follow.

Many of the games are not Call of Duty-like shoot-em-ups or the next Angry Birds. They are often word or logic puzzles, which can help people feel a sense of accomplishment for exercising their intellectual muscles. For companies with editorial products, word games also aren’t drastically different from their core businesses.

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