For years, digital publishers have had to spend heavily on technology ensure their websites run smoothly. But as they face more intense competition from Facebook and Google, which have billions to invest in research and development, digital media producers should consider adopting a common publishing platform.
Jesse Knight, Chief Technology Officer at Vice Media for seven years, says digital publishers spend too much time and money creating customized content management systems to meet their individual needs. Common technical standards for the industry may help publishers avoid duplicating their efforts.
The money they save could be spent on creating original content, Knight says.
“It’s as if every record label had their own dev team building their own version of iTunes or Spotify,” Knight writes in an editorial for Harvard’s NiemanLab.
He said he spent his years at Vice building a global-first platform that spanned more than 12 brands and was used by offices in 35 countries. That investment became less meaningful as audiences shifted their media consumption to smaller-screened mobile devices, reducing the need to create a splashy website that looked great on desktop screens, he said.
Knight makes a solid case for more teamwork in the industry.
Publishing has its bitter rivalries than can hamper cooperation among companies vying for a shrinking pool of ad dollars. When it comes to technology, perhaps the industry’s “frenemies” can co-operate to develop some common standards that cut costs.
Knight even suggests digital publishers work together as a “media union” to tackle broader threats to the industry. Those challenges include the ongoing fight against ad blockers, the need for flexible content management systems that can scale upward and Google’s updates to its search algorithms, which can stifle online content discovery.
Digital publishers have long sought an out-of-the-box solution that would alleviate the need for greater customization. As Vice Media learned, all-in-one publishing platforms, like Drupal, CQ and WordPress, were limited. They also had a reputation for being slow to adapt to technological changes.
In the absence of common standards, some publishers are working to monetize their investments by licensing their digital development platforms. Vox Media’s Chorus, The Washington Post’s Arc, New York Media’s Clay and Hearst’s MediaOS are available to other publishers, Knight notes.
Publishers can also consider Brightspot, Contentful and WordPress, but should be mindful that these platforms weren’t developed specifically for the media industry, he adds.
Knight’s recommendations are prescient as digital publishers look for ways to cut costs and prioritize their funding among competing projects. As the industry faces bigger threats from Facebook and Google, publishers need to prioritize their core competencies in content development to differentiate their brands.