Platforms and Publishers: The End of an Era
Since our last report was published in June 2018, the shift in the journalism landscape has been seismic. Advertising revenues have continued to plummet and newsrooms across the country have experienced mass layoffs. In turn, publishers have scrambled to adapt their business models and priorities in an ever-changing and volatile media ecosystem—one still dominated by platforms despite the large-scale public reckoning with their effects on society and democracy.
There is no telling how publishers will fare in the coming years as platforms undergo perhaps their most dramatic transformations since their foray into publishing products in 2015. However, one thing is certain: Despite facing increasing antitrust scrutiny and calls for regulation, platforms are more powerful than ever. Over time, they have come to control the online information ecosystem and, increasingly, in the case of Facebook and Google, are among the news industry’s top funders.
It is in this context that many of the publishing executives and employees we interviewed described the “end of an era.” But as is clear in the report, this does not mean the end of their cooperation with platforms. It refers, rather, to the end of optimism that scale and ad-based platform products will bring about meaningful revenue and audience growth. From the rise of paywalls and reader revenue initiatives to the diversification of revenue streams through live events and podcasts, publishers are attempting to regain control over the future of their businesses.
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