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Content competition from the tech companies

“Facing the expiration of streaming rights with networks that, too, resented the disruption that the platform created, Netflix did the only thing they could: they doubled down on originals.”

In 2019, publishers will find competition (and, in some cases, a lifeboat) in a surprising place.

Platforms like Google, Facebook, Snapchat and even Apple have played coy regarding their role as media companies for years. That will change in 2019.

Facing diminishing engagement, strained partnerships, allegations of data misuse, political bias and the perpetuation of misinformation, these platforms will finally admit that the only path forward is to go all-in: It’s not enough to simply curate content and platforms must take on the role of creating content as well. These companies will hire (and maybe even acquire) large editorial teams to produce news, video, music, movies and more in-house — and begin to deleverage themselves from a group of publishers that have increasingly soured on the relationships.

There’s already precedent for this model: Netflix. Facing the expiration of streaming rights with networks that, too, resented the disruption that the platform created, Netflix did the only thing they could: they doubled down on originals. As a result, the streaming platform will soon (if not already) be better known for its original series than as a platform that syndicates shows from traditional television networks. 2019 will be the year the other platforms realize they have to do the same.

Retailers and consumer brands will join the fun as well. Realizing engagement is an effective sales strategy, consumer brands will begin aggressively acquiring content in an attempt to cultivate a community around their products. And like platforms, they’ll lean on the companies that already know how to do this well: publishers, who will be more than happy to consult or license content for the right price.

Amazon’s already doing this. Prime Video is an attempt to keep shoppers within the Amazon ecosystem, and to create additional incentives to pay for “free” two-day shipping (Prime members spend nearly twice as much on Amazon as non-Prime members). The retail giant has also begun natively-hosting product reviews, including those written by my employer, Wirecutter, to help shoppers discover products otherwise buried in a stream of search results.

In 2019, more of these initiatives will crop up — and I expect they’ll include an increasingly diverse cohort of companies. Travel and luxury brands will invest in content to inspire use of their products and services (hello, AirBnB magazine). Pop charts will live on Spotify, restaurant reviews will be published on Open Table and you’ll brush up on gaming tips directly on your Nintendo Switch.

2019 will be the year that platforms (and consumer brands) stop tiptoeing and finally embrace their role as a publisher of record. When that happens, I suspect many of us will feel the heat — but perhaps a few of us will also find opportunity.

Mat Yurow leads Wirecutter Money, a personal finance initiative from Wirecutter, The New York Times Company’s product recommendation service.

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