Much of the talk around the rise of platforms (Facebook Instant Articles, Apple News, Snapchat Discover, etc.) revolves around what many assume to be their lack of interest in local media. I don’t think that’s true — 2016 will be the year the platforms will scale down to local news partners.
The turn toward local will happen as we see groups of local media band together to work with the platforms. It strengthens their position to get more attention, and it provides the platforms with easier access to larger, aggregated audiences. It’ll be good business for the platforms and local media.
The platforms initially targeted the big, national partners for obvious reasons: They could negotiate with a few entities with large audiences as they fleshed out and tested their own model. The next logical step was to turn to national networks of local or niche properties. We saw Facebook sign up Hearst and Gannett this fall. And Facebook’s willingness to sign up digital startup Billy Penn is proof they’re willing to go even more local.
It’s clear local media organizations must go to the platforms to some degree to serve their audiences and meet people where they are. Creating partnerships with the social platforms is a tricky proposition for any media company because it means giving up more control of the distribution channel — but that cat’s already out of the bag.
It’s also good business for the local partners. They can serve their communities better with the content they already create without much of the resource-intensive work required to compete with the infinite amount of players in the digital space. If the content is good, it’ll remain good regardless of the platform. And we can’t forget the media companies get paid — 100 percent of revenue from ads they sell and 70 percent of what the platform sells. Of course, this all assumes the platforms’ terms will remain favorable to their partners. I don’t see that changing as long as the platforms continue only to aggregate and not create the local content.
As a by-product, these deals will force media companies to think about how they’ll generate revenue in places other than their own site or publication. Local media will work together and the social platforms will turn to them for partnerships.