Harvard Business Review
In the wake of digital disruption, new media companies are seeking scale and legitimacy, while old media companies explore new business models.
The “platform” is a new media company model that has been perfected by the tech industry. Platforms can easily scale to serve gigantic audiences, and their lucrative possibilities beckon to established players that are often called “publishers.” Meanwhile, many publishers have solid brand identities that are alluring to platforms. So publishers and platforms are experimenting with new combinations — but is it really possible to combine a publisher with a platform over the long term?
Typically, publishers are considered to have editorial judgment, while platforms lack it. From this perspective, the Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic, and The New York Times are classic “publishers” — they present highly-curated content, and their editors invest a lot of time in its creation. Google, Facebook, and Twitter are classic “platforms” — they distribute other peoples’ content without as much editorial oversight. But these differences are largely cultural. It’s not technologically difficult for publishers to add platform-like elements, and vice versa.
Publishers seeking new business models are often tempted to become more platform-like by enabling their audience to post user-generated content; they hope to increase revenue by selling ads on this “extra” content. Sometimes, they also hope to develop a content management system that other publishers can license and use to distribute their content.
On the other hand, the technologists looking to differentiate their platforms are drawn by the voice and influence of publishing. Plus, platform-builders can capture more value if they own content on their platform, and not just the platform itself.