Benefits of working together to compete with platforms

Domination of news discovery and consumption by tech giants is inviting wider discussions around the need for news publishers to join forces.

By Sahar Amer, Reuters Community | Mar 21, 2019

An important forecast from the Reuters Institute report Journalism, Media and Technology Trends and Prediction in 2019 sees collaboration between news publishers rising this year. News organizations have battled each other for audience loyalty, subscriptions, and original content, but with the advancement of technology, leading platforms like Google, Apple and Facebook have since been setting the standard for how news is consumed.

More co-operation could help create the scale to counter platform power and defray the costs of ever more complex technology.”

Journalism, Media, and Technology: Trends & Predictions 2019, P.28. Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

The report shows that agents in the industry were already seeing the positives. Of the 194 editors, CEOs and digital leaders in the study:

  • 71% value common technology among news publishers
  • 67% agree with selling ads together
  • 50% think they should share journalistic content and resources.

Some major news brands have already created their own common publishing platforms. The Washington Post’s Arc, New York Media’s Clay, and Vox Media’s Chorus are all available for licensing.

With platforms dominating the digital sphere and AI voice systems being the ‘next big thing’ for news, there seems to be bigger benefits for news organizations who work together.

Reclaiming advertisement revenue

The American fact tank, Pew Research Centre, found that cuts in newsroom employment in the US dropped by 23% from 2008 to 2017, and further layoffs in 2019 are largely blamed on social media firms like Facebook for reaping the majority of advertisement revenue.

If news organizations could redistribute power from the current platforms through a common platform, this could distribute the profits made from third parties amongst themselves, creating a sustainable model.

Focusing on what truly matters

“We’ll see more people leaving social networks, more tools for digital detox, and more focus on ‘meaningful’ content ”

— Nic Newman, research associate, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism

Audiences are looking for deeper, more reliable sources of information. Fighting over visibility and wider audience reach through dominant platforms contributes to the lower standard of content that is being produced.

A common platform could devolve more control to publishers in order to reach loyal users, gain more subscriptions and memberships through what publishers do best – developing differentiated, meaningful content.

Setting the standard

Another benefit for news organizations working together is the chance to collectively define voice and audio for news.

As voice technology is in its early stages of development, news publishers have an opportunity to set the blueprint for platforms like Google and Amazon. The Guardian Voice LabBBC News Labs, and The Financial Times Hidden Cities Project are a few examples of how publishers are already experimenting with voice and audio.

The fear that major platforms will dilute connection and attribution between users through voice systems can be combated through a common platform where publishers pool all their skills and knowledge to compete in experimenting with voice and developing future digital products.

Creating a common publishing platform is by no means an easy task. However, the possibilities and benefits for news organizations could transform their future prospects. If the main platforms continue to drop reach in the news feed and rake in the profits from advertising revenue (Facebook $78,600 2016 – 2018), a common platform for publishers may be a much needed solution in 2019.