Content Delivery Across Platforms

Users are exposed to a number of platforms in the digital world. Each platform has it’s own quirks.

The typical strategy from a creator/publisher point of view is to create a core piece of content. Modify it for different platforms and publish them strategically. There are services that allow you to do this fairly simply.

Then there are open protocols in this space like RSS which enable sharing of text based content. Podcasts also follow a standard format allowing a creator to publish to different podcast players at the same time. Spotify announced an OpenAccess platform that will allow creators to publish their paid audio content on Spotify while still maintaining their direct relationship with their audience.

The need from the user point of view is quite clear here. We have preferences between different types of content. Some might like to read a full-fledged article or watch a Youtube video on the topic, or read a condensed twitter thread or, listen to it as a podcast form. While the underlying content is the same, the delivery channel is different.

The ways in which the user can interact with the content is also different in each case. In twitter they can retweet it or comment/like a twitter thread. While a blog post can be shared with others over email or any messaging social media app they use.

Monetization is different in these platforms as well. In Youtube the primary forms of monetization is either through the built-in AdSense or having In-Video sponsors. While the monetization for a blog/podcast could be a direct subscription model with individual users.

Bundling of Niches

Media in the past were limited by the medium. News by physically printing newspapers. The music industry by CDs. Television by cable with limited channels that could be programmed. Distribution in these mediums were inherently limited. The internet and smartphone duo breaks this.

Until then services were usually bundled. You didn’t have to subscribe to Sports News, World News or Business News separately. They all came as a bundle. The same goes for television. The unit economics made sense to bundle these even if not all customers are interested in each product or service. However with the internet it became easier for services to offer these individual products with no additional cost. And now we are seeing the great unbundling as Ben Thompson wrote in a 2017 article.

There are two problems from the customer point of view. Today there are just too many subscriptions. According to Forbes, as of mid-2019, the average American subscribes to 3.4 streaming services. Managing subscriptions, payments, logins and being able to find the right content for you to consume is often a task in itself. Secondly, most customers have a monthly subscription budget. Which means that they have to choose what they would like to subscribe to.

Recently, there is a great influx of individual creators trying to carve out a space for themselves. Substack has popularised and hyped that anyone with a mailing list could start creating a content and put some of it behind a paywall. Creators focus on niches to gain some ground initially but eventually they too diversify and spread out. Which is not a bad thing, but is it enough to justify the monthly paid subscription even then? Probably yes, because by then readers are not only buying into the content but also the brand around it.

A possible solution where this is headed to is another wave of bundling. The great bundling of niches. An app store of sorts that can provide a wide array of content ranging from Netflix to Substack newsletters, from News shows to sports. There could even be sections for individual creators, journalists and writers. Customers can then mix and match what they would like to subscribe to.

One subscription to rule them all.

AdNauseam

AdNauseam is a free browser extension that tries to trick advertising networks by messing with your browsing data. AdNauseam works locally, and itself doesn’t send the data out to any other services. It comes with 3 opt-in features which includes hide ads, clock ads and block malware.

What it basically does is to randomly click on ads on behalf of it’s users creating a some what balanced mix of browsing history that leads advertising trackers astray. This is known as a strategy of obfuscation. This process reduces the value of the aggregated data from the user. The second order effects include polluting the data collected as whole by these services. Imagine even if 1% of users use such a service, it can have profound effects on search results and targeted ads. They could effectively end up showing irrelevant ads to its users leading to a lower conversion rate.

In a way, this directly attacks the incentive in the whole advertising business. The reason why a company would use social companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter to run their ads is because of 2 reasons. Firstly, users spent a lot of time on these platforms and secondly, these platforms have an understanding on what each user is interested in. But if software’s like this reduce the value of those platforms, it will force companies to question such platforms. AdNauseam is a start to a new era of privacy focused applications.

Related

Privacy as a Service

AdNauseam – White Paper

Privacy As A Service

Backdrop: Whatsapp updated its privacy policy giving itself and Facebook access to account and device information, location information, contact details from the address book.

A business model that has existed in the App economy for a while is advertisements. Businesses use ads to monetize their website/app and the users can pay a premium for a better experience without ads. More the people who use the app, more the business gets paid for displaying an ad on their page. Apps over the years have grown to serve large parts of the population and have morphed itself into an ecosystem. For example, Facebook together with Instagram, Whatsapp, Whatsapp Business etc. This in turn has increased the value of user data for a business. Data about a user, about what they are searching or talking about in Whatsapp can be then used to target ads to them in another platform. This is not something that’s new. But the spotlight on how this affects the user’s privacy is new.

User’s have 2 options. Either they stick with the platform and conform to the new privacy policy. Or they switch to a new alternative. The network effects of these platforms make it incredibly hard to switch. The need for privacy can open avenues for monetization. A new premium tier, that does not track you or your actions on any platform in exchange for a monthly fee.

Privacy-as-a-service model could be an additional source of revenue. But it could backfire. Less data and user-awareness for a social network company could mean a poorer ad service and reach. Not to forget ads make up for the largest part of the revenue in these companies. At the end of the day, companies make money when users consume. And tracking your data is a gateway to that.

Evolving Content

There are lots of content out there, in many different formats. Tweets, Snaps, Blogs, Articles. What if they could evolve over time. And present itself in it’s new form to you every once in a while. And the time period between each generation is in line with the forgetting curve. A content delivery format which has spaced repetition built into it. Spaced repetition is one of the scientifically proven ways to remember something.

This gives rise to a new type of social media that is fundamentally built to make you remember more of it. Something like Anki, but combined with a infinite feed of social media apps. This could make a very good medium for educational material. Material that does not require the immutable property of twitter. And each update for educational material can add more facts so that it links better in your own tree of knowledge.