The Platform Wall
The opening paragraph of Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media warns us about content. The underlying message, according to McLuhan, is the change that a medium introduces into culture:
Believing that content must be published within Facebook, Snapchat, or Apple’s ecosystem because “that’s where audiences are” distracts us from the longer-term implications of the medium shift.
“Content” is the delicious thing that’s dangled in audiences’ faces. Platforms have the audiences. Of course, publishers want to bite — they’re hungry 😲 The news industry has been starving for more than a decade 🚫🍝
The changes taking place in news media, however, make a debate about publishing content “inside” of social platforms dangerous. High-profile publishers — the gold standard of content — are blinded by the light 😎
Platforms have better delivery technologies. Immersive, 3D video! Fullscreen HD images. Look! Better than the Web! (Tilt to view more)*📲
I’ll need some information first
Just the basic facts
Just a basic sharing widget. Just a basic “👍” Just a basic story embed. Just the basic — c🍎ntent.
Can you stand up?
I do believe it’s working, good
That’ll keep you going through the show
Maybe publishers should be numb, because winter is coming ❄️
Fighting over content is moot; winter is almost here, and there are there two things publishers can do:
- Run behind the platform wall or
- Stay out in the open.
The internet — and more importantly — the World Wide Web envisioned by pioneers like Tim Berners-Lee was a community platform.
As many have pointed out —this has been a boon for sharing but a double-edged sword for business.
Online, it’s easy to distribute “content,” but difficut to control how — and when — audiences see it. Measurement is another issue: companies like Nielsen can barely keep up 📈
Is There Anybody Out There?
The internet has been an uphill battle for publishers from day one, with search engines, news aggregators, and copyright thieves monetizing their stories, brands, and operations.
That was bad. And then came the click bots 🆓💸
You’d Better Ru🏃
The problem is, in the long term, the platform wall divides and cuts off what was fundamentally designed to be open.
By the time winter is over, publishers that ran behind the platform wall might be fighting over the scraps they are thrown.
The wall can be built high, but it can never be built high enough to stop the message from getting through the cracks.
And there will be cracks, because the message is a technological revolution.
As McCluhan envisioned, platforms will likely demand niche content from publishers, and this fragmentation will only bind them to the exclusivity of the platform, its delivery technologies, and its audience.
Not to mention that specialized algorithms actually deliver the content to the audiences through tactics like news feeds and “trending topics.”
The wall is going up quickly — platforms are now abandoning open access tools.
One-Way Links ⤴️😵📰
Companies like Apple are designing tricks like “Universal Links,” code that makes URLs work as links into the platform.
That’s right: iOS9 includes a way for developers to create “one-way” links to take news audiences behind the wall ⤵️
Once the content trick stops working, platforms will move onto other — more efficient ways — to get 💸 back to their investors. Like algorithmic story creation.
When the cockleshell shatters
And the hammers batter
Down the door
You’d better run
Publishers’ reaction will be to run. In the short term, running will probably work; for the long term, most likely not.
This is my letter to the editor.
Dear publishers: don’t be just another brick in|the wall.