Digital media disruptions VI - on paywalls, and why you can't buy influence

Profile picture for user jreed By Jon Reed July 30, 2015
Yes, it's time for another gut-check of digital media disruptions - the enterprisey view. In this edition: the perils of paywalls, content trumps distribution, and why you can't buy influence.

Yes, it's time for another gut-check review of digital media disruptions - the enterprisey review (see previous installment here). Rules: pick the impactful stories from my curated digital media Scoop.IT collection, give them a hard look from the enterprise side, and, where appropriate, recommend a course of action.

Welcome to a new Pando
key excerpt: "We appreciate our advertisers, and we love hosting events, but for Pando to stay both fiercely independent and healthily solvent we knew we needed to add a third leg -- subscription revenue --  to the stool. Print publications have understood this for centuries. Online publications are slowly catching on. The big question was where to strike the balance between free content and paid."

enterprise relevance: As I noted in my Why web pages suck series, I don't think Pando's subscription-based model is going to work - too much behind the wall - but I admire the experimentation. For the enterprise, unless you're in the media industry, you don't have the same considerations as Pando. The power of digital media is heavily dependent on free content that is super-easy to consume and share. But the best content strategies combine free digital content with sign up content, not for money, but for data. See my piece on how Copyblogger pulled this off and moved beyond newsletters.

best course of action:

  • Whenever possible, reduce the friction of digital content produced by making it freely available.
  • Integrated sign up content with that free content and use that process to learn about your audience and support targeted communities.

Does the rise of ephemeral content spell the death of archives?
by: Melody Kramer
key excerpt: "As news sites negotiate with Facebook to publish material directly on the platform, Facebook’s role in determining what news to surface, what news to censor, and how original content published on the platform is archived should be examined more closely."

enterprise relevance: As more more huge news orgs, new and old, bend to Facebook's will and publish on the Instant Articles stream, the question of how such articles are archived becomes a factor. For enterprises, there are genuine questions of when to cross-post content, and on which platforms. I'm less optimistic about cross-posting than some. Even if you get better traction in LinkedIn than your own blog, you're giving LinkedIn a heck of a lot of power by publishing your content there. I prefer to see companies go the extra mile and beef up the content on their own sites, and then publish original, follow-on pieces on social platforms that point back to the originals.

best course of action:

  • Cross-posting on other platforms is worth testing, but check search engines frequently to see which version of the piece became the "piece of record" in search.
  • Minimize duplicate content across platforms in favor of extending content with follow-on questions and insights. Yes it's more work, but content is always work.
  • Treat your own web site as the archival content of record for your own original content. Social network for amplification, but not for archiving.

Reddit Fired the Woman Trying to Save It
key excerpt: "Weeks after calling for more transparency and less harassment on Reddit, executives let go of one of the only routes to let executives know about the site’s rampant problems with harassment and abuse."

enterprise relevance: You might be wondering, what does Reddit have to do with enterprise? On the surface, not much, but communities are becoming a serious business issue for enterprises. I've already written a piece on what Enterprise communities can learn from Reddit's meltdowns, but one thing I didn't address was the importance of the skilled community manager. Good community managers are hard to come by - their pay grades aren't anything to brag about and the job is consuming. And: good community managers, by definition, are hard to manage.

Reddit let go of a really good one, and while I don't have the details, there is always a temptation to move on from someone that is providing in-your-face feedback and challenging the business on future direction. Those folks might be a pain to manage, but they are the essence of community.

best course of action:

  • Study the growing body of data on how enterprise communities thrive (and when they don't).
  • Be transparent with your community, but enforce rules of civility, ideally co-created by the community, to prevent ugly subcultures from developing.
  • Pay your community managers a lot more than your competition does. Keep them happy and be glad you don't have their jobs.

How 50 Cent and a Feminist Action Hero Are Finally Putting Starz on the Map
by: Josef Adalian
key excerpt: "At the end of last year, Starz (just barely) supplanted Showtime as the second-biggest pay-cable channel in terms of subscribers, pulling ahead of its longtime rival for the first time in eight years. More important, 2014 saw the successful launch of three new dramas, all of which seem headed for long lives."

enterprise relevance: Now I know you're wondering how I'm gonna tie this one back to the enterprise. But first, on these new Starz shows: Power (with a quietly menacing 50 cent) is just ok, Outlander is a plodding soap opera, and Black Sails is trying to add meat to a cheeseball premise. But the bottom line is that Starz had a terrific distribution platform, but no attention. Now, by virtue of this content, they have attention, and therefore, a business model. If that's not a lesson for enterprises, I don't know what is.

best course of action:

  • Your distribution platform is great. But how good is your content? Invest in imaginative and compelling content, both about your products and content that engages beyond your content into shared industry problems.
  • You can't buy influence anymore. Repeat: you can't buy influence anymore. Ergo: invest in your own employees to become influencers, and support them on that journey. Three examples amongst many: Sameer Patel, Vijay Vijaysankar. Peter Coffee.

Bonus content: I don't think I can tie this one into the enterprise, but the blowout at Gawker is instructive, I think, in terms of editorial versus business and the ethics of attention. See: Gawker is removing story about Conde Nast CFO, and Tommy Craggs and Max Read are resigining from Gawker.

These pieces were picked from my curated channel, enterprise media disruptions. Link: the entire past series of digital media disruptions pieces.

Image credit: Time for change © Coloures-pic -

Disclosure: Sameer Patel works at SAP, and Peter Coffee works at Both are diginomica premier partners, and Coffee is a frequent contributor to diginomica on the Salesforce channel. Vijay Vijayasankar works for IBM; diginomica has no financial ties to IBM.