Why so quiet on publishing moves?

Sarah Homewood
By Sarah Homewood | 18 June 2015
Sarah Homewood, AdNews journalist

When Facebook and Apple do something, it usually, quickly, becomes a big deal. Both have, in as many months, upped the ante when it comes to their publishing offerings, which shows that these major tech and online players want to make it easier for their audiences to consume quality premium content.

What it means for publishers is less simple. This week, Apple announced its much-anticipated news offering Apple News, which aggregates the content from several publishers, to deliver users news content in the one place that is relevant to them – their phone. 

Facebook’s offering is slightly different, with the social giant making it easier for publishing partners to publish their content within the Facebook eco-system.

Despite the slight differences, both aim to make publishing easier and get content to more people. Win, win right? Publishers get a greater audience and the potential for more revenue, and Apple and Facebook get more content. However, whether it’s as simple as saying its a win for publishers is still being worked out.

While it is good for publishers to reach the vast audiences that both Apple and Facebook deliver, what cost are they paying for the privilege? In both cases Apple and Facebook are taking control of the content and the eco-system in which it is run and in both cases both players will be profiting from it. While the publishers can also generate revenue, they are losing
control over the content that they work long and hard to produce. The big online and tech players are getting all the benefit of premium content without any skin in the game.

The fact that this may seem like a raw deal for publishers begs the question, why have so many signed on? Powerful, premium publishers like The Guardian, Condé Nast, ESPN, The New York Times, Hearst, Time Inc., CNN and Bloomberg, are all launch partners for Apple News. That’s some serious bench strength.

So surely for publishers the benefit must outweigh the risks? Possibly more likely is that it’s not just about the risks, but rather it’s fear of being left out of the game and the desire for maximum reach that has publishers signing on the dotted line.

With all of this going on, you’d think major publishing players would want to talk about the impact it may have in this market. In the US, publishers are talking it up, but that couldn’t be further from the truth here. Even partners who have signed on don’t want to deviate from preprepared statements. I can’t help but wonder why that is? If it’s such a good deal why is no one talking? Silence often speaks volumes. Or is it simply the fact, that with tech giants coming in and once again changing the questions, no one has the answers.

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