Unchecked “Platishers” Threaten the Integrity of Content

by Emily E. Steck

Unchecked “Platishers” Threaten the Integrity of Content

Once upon a time, the internet was a young little beast that no one knew how to navigate (see: the dot com bubble) or how to use it, including publishers and techies. It’s why they’ve been separated on the internet for this long. Until now.

The great schism between platform and publisher occurred with everyone’s least favorite company merger: AOL and Time Warner. Thought to be a perfect marriage of technology and media, this merger was disastrous for everyone involved, and it spurred a new tradition of separation between church and state. AOL not-so-quietly tanked just as the internet was forging ahead with our (now) great social media efforts. The great tech innovators of this time—Facebook, Twitter, YouTube—saw the dissolution of AOL and realized a separation must occur from platform and publisher.

This rift has begun to mend itself. Everyone wants good content—publishers, platforms and consumers. Former platform-only sites, like Medium and LinkedIn, are all becoming a hybrid of sorts, pledging to devote energy to content creation and thought leadership. Meanwhile, publishers like Forbes, Gawker, Huffington Post and Buzzfeed are publishers pushing platform models to build a community around their audience, even using the platform as an opportunity for brands to jump in on the action.

Sulia CEO Jonathan Glick (who is also responsible for the above theory of the great publisher/tech schism) has dubbed these hybrids as “platishers,” which Gawker has dubbed as taking part in word terrorism, is admittedly a pretty terrible portmanteau. A platisher can either be, according to Glick in the comments section:

“a) a publisher who broadly opens up their publishing system to outsiders (celebrities, intellectuals, politicians, other publishers, or brands) to directly create first-order content objects. (By first-order, I mean not just subordinate content objects, like message board comments, but full content, on the same level as the publisher’s own.)

or

b) an open platform who employs or otherwise funds editors, curators, writers and other creators to make content for their platform”

The first definition of said “platisher” (we need to retire that name, ASAP) is what is alarming. The promise of a publishing platform is almost too good to be true. Currently, it is too good to be true.

On the publisher side, opening up a platform to generate content has led to some questionable tactics. Some publishers turned platforms have neglected to pay for that user-generated content, hoping that its users will just want to be associated with the publisher. Entertainment Weekly, for example, has a section called the Community, where readers can become TV recappers and writers all for the price of nothing, doing the same work as a paid writer. (Disclosure: I am a freelance TV recapper/writer). Gawker is another example of not paying their interns or platform contributors, but most importantly, it fails to fact check or edit these articles. This is why it’s so important to have an editor.

The second definition/business model described by Glick has been proven to work for companies like LinkedIn and Medium because they DO employ writers, editors, curators and creators to make content available. They are supposed to offer tools and prestige that other writers, editors, curators and creators can use. Platforms turned publishers also have problems, though probably better ones. LinkedIn, a platform turned publisher, now must contend with the volumes of professional published work on its site. How does it maintain the quality of professional posts as it expands its publisher network? Will it follow a publisher revenue model by pursuing advertisers?

These are all very important questions in the age of “content is king.” Content is king, which is why so many publishers and tech companies are changing up the model. Each process of changing into a platisher—a term I think we should abandon and just call a hybrid model—has a difficult task of maintaining integrity within their content.

That’s why they need to work together to learn from one another. A few of them already are, like Facebook’s Paper app, which has a team of editors curating content all over the web. Or Medium, which oversees editorial content on the site. Or even Gawker Media, which was called out by it’s own site Jezebel for publishing inappropriate content. 

As a tech company who works directly with publishers and consumers, Quietly is a platform where consumers and publishers can use our tools to create content. We directly work with publishers to help their needs in this ever-changing industry. Publishers need great tech workers and tech companies (and publishers) need to employ editorial judgment and fair pay. Quietly remains vigilant in this uncertain time for tech and publishers, and we urge others to do the same.


5 Platisher-Hybrids Worth Talking About

By Emily E. Steck

Publishers are turning into platforms & platforms into publishers, where open user-generated content policies exists. Here are 5 notable publishers-turned-platform hybrids.

  • Condé Nast Traveler

    By Emily E. Steck

    Condé Nast is experimenting with an open community contribution section for a travel section, where writers will be paid based on traffic. 

  • Gawker Media

    By Emily E. Steck

    The snarkiness behind Gawker extends to their readership. They allow for contributors to write and post stories. 

  • Entertainment Weekly's The Community

    By Emily E. Steck

    The Community is part of the Time Inc. owned magazine to let fans write & review television. They do not pay for this content.

  • Forbes

    By Emily E. Steck

    Forbes is opening its doors for a community where brands will able to post and repost content on their own channels on Forbes' website.

  • Medium

    By Emily E. Steck

    Medium was a platform first, but it has always paid some of the writers and content. Now, it is known as a publisher-platform with great typography and white space.

Image Credit: Thomas Hawk

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