Dealing with digital intermediaries – article out

In a new article, “Dealing with digital intermediaries”, Sarah Anne Ganter and I examine relations between publishers and platform companies.

The article presents an in-depth case study and show that publishers’ relationships to platforms are characterized by a tension between (1) short-term, operational, often editorially led pursuit of the opportunities offered by both search and social to reach people and (2) more long-term strategic worries about whether publishers will become too dependent on platform companies, including worries over whether they will lose control over their editorial identity, access to user data, and central parts of their revenue models.

On the basis of interviews with senior editorial staff, people from management, and technologists, we show that the way the case organization handles its relationship with different platforms is shaped by a fear of missing out, by the difficulties of evaluating the risk/reward ratio of engaging with different initiatives developed by platform companies, and by a sense of a profound asymmetry as a large news media organization finds itself dealing with far larger platforms.

Ultimately, our analysis suggests that publishers are becoming simultaneously increasingly empowered by and dependent upon a small number of centrally placed and powerful digital platforms largely beyond their control.

The article is published in New Media & Society and available as open access here and here as PDF.

The work behind the piece was supported by the Tietgen Award that I received in 2014 from the DSEB.

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