I’ve had the opportunity to present about the work Sarah Ganter and I have been doing on the relationship between platforms (large technology companies like Facebook and Google) and publishers (news media organizations) at a range of very different forums over the last month or so.
All over the world, search engines and social media are increasingly important for the distribution of news. In our research, we examine how news media have responded to this development, how they handle their relations with the new powerful digital intermediaries that they are simultaneously increasingly empowered by and dependent upon, and how these platform companies in turn handle their role in the wider news media ecosystem.
It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to discuss our work with very different groups of people–
- In November first at ECREA in Prague, where I was honored to give a keynote lecture, and had great questions from a range of people including Des Freedman and Nick Couldry.
- Later that month at AsCOR in Amsterdam, a very different crowd with Claes de Vreese, Natali Helberger, and their colleagues.
- Then in December at the PSA Media and Politics Group’s annual general conference, good discussion, especially with Andrew Chadwick and Cristian Vaccari
Each lecture draws on the same project and a set of core ideas we are developing, with some variation depending on context and occasion. The ECREA one is available as video (below) for those interested.
I feel very fortunate to have had the chance to discuss this project and our work-in-progress with so many different people and get so much useful and constructive input.The abstract of the ECREA lecture is re-posted below, and the slides are here.
Now, to the writing!
Publishers and platforms
Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, keynote lecture at ECREA 2016 in Prague
What does the continued, global rise of platforms like Google and Facebook mean for public communication in a new digital media environment, and for how we research and understand public communication? That is one of the central questions facing the field of communication research today. In this lecture, I examine the relationship between publishers and platforms as one key part of how the rise of digital intermediaries is playing out, and show how news media—like many others—are becoming simultaneously increasingly empowered by and dependent upon a small number of centrally placed and powerful platforms beyond their control (and with whom they compete for attention and advertising). I develop the notion of “platform power” to begin to capture key aspects of the enabling, generative, and productive power of platforms that set them apart from other actors. As a range of different intermediaries including search engines, social media, and messaging apps become more and more important in terms of how people access and find information online, and in turn restructure the digital media environment itself, communication research is faced with a set of interlocking questions concerning both our intellectual work and our public role. The intellectual questions include the need to understand how people use these platforms to engage with public communication, but also institutional questions including how different platforms engage with other players (like publishers) and how these other players in turn adapt to the rise of platforms, as well as political questions concerning the implications of their rise. The question concerning our public role concerns how existing ways of doing and communicating communication research fits with our ability to understand—and help others understand—an opaque and rapidly-evolving set of processes profoundly reshaping our media environments.