Platforms are the future of media: implications for news, journalists and society


I was recently interviewed by Nikolay Malyarov of digital newspaper aggregator PressReader for their industry magazine The Insider.

The transcribed interview appears as an extended article Platforms are the Future of Media, which goes into depth on some of the issues I see in the future of media. Below are a few brief excerpts, but read the full article for more detail.

Platforms are the future of media. One could argue that a newspaper in the past had its own platform, which was its distribution of paper, primarily. There, it aggregated news, advertising, classifieds and so on. So it was a platform in terms of being able to pull all that content together and distribute it to all of its readers.

But now, in a connected world, we’re starting to see just how many other platforms there are, and single participants are finding it very challenging to be able to play successfully in this world. Most prominently of course we’re seeing the social platforms (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) and now the messaging platforms as being places where people go for all of their media. The way in which we interact with people on social is an entirely valid form of media, along with the more traditional news, entertainment and education from established publishers.

In the future we can start to see more and more fluid platforms for news professionals. I think that starts to become a more apt term than journalist. They’re news professionals who are working with crowds, who are working with algorithms and who are working with each other, not necessarily in terms of just being an employee of the news organizations. In order to be able to collaborate with other news professionals around the world and bring together content, sometimes they will work independently and sometimes ad hoc for the right news, event or content. News professionals are supported by a platform where consumers, individuals or organizations around the world can access their content, and where a fair value exchange can happen.

If we look at how you participate in other platforms, I think there are four key elements in that:

1. Analyze those platforms effectively; map them. Identify what the costs are of participating in the platform. What are the trade-offs between them? Explore some of the potential paths forward, the different scenarios and how they may play out.

2. Engage with select platforms because you can’t engage across all of them; but you do need to make a commitment. Then establish contingencies that determine in what situations you are going to pull out, and what the trigger will be that moves you into a different space. If you end up choosing to engage with a platform, promote it and then get and understand the data from that.

3. Strengthen your position, given the fact that you are going inside a relationship. Ensure that at all points you are accumulating as much data as possible. You are using platforms to entice readers into a direct relationship, which The New York Times and others have done successfully on Facebook. Yes, promote on Facebook, but always use that to try and create direct relationships with audiences.

4. Apply influence as we saw recently where the editor of Aftenposten essentially changed the policies of Facebook. It was partly through, I suppose, being right, but it was also being able to take a stand prominently, drawing others’ opinions out. It is critical that if you are participating in other platforms, then you need to be able to say, “How can we collaborate with other participants, not as an individual player, but as collaborators and share our data and influence in order to make sure that we can shape that platform as effectively as possible?”

If you’re participating in a platform, you need to monitor the shifts in the landscape, engage with new platforms that are emerging and potentially develop/add onto platforms that are complementary. Once you’ve made the choice to engage with others’ platforms, which is essential in today’s distribution world, you do need to have effective strategies to participate in those platforms in a highly dynamic way, where you can respond to changes as they emerge.