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Publish To A Plaform Or Perish

It’s a twist on the adage, but today it seems — at least on the surface — that publishers only have one option: publish direct to platforms or perish. At least, that’s the narrative being pushed by some of the biggest companies online these days. The squeeze may be on, but publishers seem to be swimming against the tide of popular opinion and waking up to the idea that they’re better off without platforms like Facebook, Medium, and Google.

Some of the comments made in recent interviews (below) provide a prescient warning to others who may be sitting on the sidelines watching how things like AMP and Facebook Articles play out before migrating content of their own.

With one click of an algorithm switch, brands could find themselves going from social platform darling to obscurity. The threat, however, real or imagined, has to be at the top of most publisher’s minds these days.

Plenty of publishers are speaking anonymously to trade publications. Here are a few less than stellar reviews:

— “Publishers are caught between a rock and a hard place. Do what the big platforms command, or go their way and see their audience reduce to a level where agencies aren’t interested.” (Digiday)

— “If you continue to over rely on external platforms to build new audiences you could easily lose large swathes of once dependable traffic.” (Digiday)

— “Publishers who are critical of AMP were reluctant to speak publicly about their frustrations, or to remove their AMP content. One executive said he would not comment on the record for fear that Google might “turn some knob that hurts the company.” (WSJ)

Of course, some publishers are loving the opportunity AMP and Instant Articles are providing them, but it’s not all roses either and it’s important to weigh those things on the advertising scale.

On the one hand, you can extend your reach in a hurry (though some would argue that you aren’t extending your audience), and on the other, you lose control of your revenue streams. It’s a chicken and egg scenario that’s hard to break out of today.

What’s most important? I guess that depends on perspective, but if I had to make the decisions today? Well, I’d lean towards financial freedom. Increasingly it’s looking like the best way forward for publishers is a focused audience, direct sales to advertisers, and streamlined placement strategy that respects a reader’s experience (and privacy).

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