The battle for the online throne: Content vs Platform

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November 10, 2016 by Paul Dughi

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Content may be important, but it’s more like The Prince. The King, of course, is Platform.

Think about it for a moment. What’s the world’s largest social media? Facebook. Largest search engine? Google. Biggest video site? YouTube.

Notice a trend? They are all aggregators of content, not content creators (with a few exceptions).

The internet was supposed to put small publishers and independent voices on equal footing with the media elites. It was supposed to democratize the process. What happened?

While some new voices have emerged, it’s been more of a transfer-of-power from one set of media elites (TV, newspaper, music, and publishing) to the new major platform in a world where Google and Facebook took 85 cents of every new dollar spent online.

Those making the big bucks are the content platforms — the place where content lives — and not the content itself. Content producers get paid small fractions of what the platforms take in.

“We have to ask ourselves if this tech revolution has been great for everyone or if it’s only great for the few at top of a Forbes list.” — Jonathan Taplin, Digital Book World 2016

The examples are all around us. There are millions and millions of apps out there. Who makes the most money? Apple and Google, who own — you guessed it — the platform where people go to get their apps and take a piece of the pie.

And the platforms are in control. Not only do they attract the most advertising, they control the flow of traffic to content creators.

Major publishers report the majority of their web traffic comes from search and social, with the vast majority of it coming from Facebook. Now, changing algorithms by FB means that fewer and fewer content items are seen organically, forcing publishers to effectively buy their audience by spending money to promote their content.

SOURCE: Parsely

What happened to the great content when Facebook tinkered with its algorithm?

SocialFlow did the science to show exactly what happened when they looked at 3,000 publisher/media companies’ Facebook pages over the last year. After upwards trends in reach for the past year, reach peaked in January 2016 and has been declining ever since. By March, SocialFlow noted a decline in reach by major publishers of 42%.

“Back in the fourth quarter and through January (2016), media companies were doing phenomenally well. Then Facebook made a change to the algorithm.” — SocialFlow’s CEO Jim Anderson

Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door. But only if you sell it on Amazon, promote it on Facebook, and buy PPC on Google.


FUN FACT: Nobody actually knows who coined the phrase “build a better mousetrap.” It’s attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said something vaguely along those lines, but the phrase itself wasn’t used until 7 years after he died. The phrase has turned into a metaphor about the power of innovation. Interestingly, the United States Patent and Trademark Office has approved 4,400 patents for new mousetraps and denied thousands of others — making mousetraps the most frequently invented device in U.S. history.


Facebook may say it’s not a media company and a news service, but the majority of Americans say the get their news from Facebook.

A Knight Foundation study shows 63% of Facebook and Twitter users say Facebook “serves as a source for news about events and issues outside the realm of friends and family.” — Digital Vault

Because it’s a mix of new sources, people don’t even take note of the source. Meaning Facebook gets credit as being a place to find news, not the content creators themselves.

A new study by Frank Magid in conjunction with Digital Content Next found that 43% of the time people aren’t aware of who published the content they’re reading. — Digital Vault

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Facebook and other platforms (Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, and on and on) has built an entire ecosystem of user-generated content that is threatening the financial health of industries that produce high quality content that billions of people worldwide enjoy.

Right now, Platform is King. But maybe it’s time for Content to regain the throne… before it’s too late.

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