The Rise of the Publishing Platform Specialist – Wall Street Journal
Publishers now have a range of platforms to choose from, beyond their own websites and apps, to get digital content in front of consumers. Facebook hosts publishersâ€™ content on Instant Articles, Apple is pushing out stories through its News app and Snapchat is showcasing media outletsâ€™ videos and articles on its Discover feature.
But with new options, come new headaches. As publishing companies grapple with these emerging platforms and strive to understand how they can best be used to help their businesses, a new job function is rapidly being created: the platform relationship specialist.
For example, CondÃ© Nast International recently posted a job opening for a â€œplatform relationships managerâ€ to help coordinate and deepen its relationships with social media and video platforms, messaging apps and even hardware manufacturers.
The person appointed will be tasked with identifying new distribution partners, managing the implementation of those partnerships from a technical and commercial standpoint, and maintaining ongoing relationships.
â€œItâ€™s very much a people and relationships role. Itâ€™s the person who builds, maintains and nurtures relationships with their counterparts at platforms,â€ said CondÃ© Nast Internationalâ€™s chief digital officer, Wolfgang Blau.
â€œThe product changes of platforms happen on a daily basis. Just to track those changes and newly emerging platforms is a full-time job in itself,â€ he said.
Previously, various people across CondÃ© Nast Internationalâ€™s portfolio liaised with contacts at different platforms. The appointment of the relationship manager is intended to formalize and streamline those interactions.
Publishers are increasingly posting content directly to platforms such as Facebook and Snapchat, so readers donâ€™t need to visit each publicationâ€™s own website or app. But each platform they work with has its own technical requirements, processes, hurdles and pace of evolution.
Publishers need to understand how many people are accessing their content, how to generate revenue from it through advertising and other means, and what type of content is best-suited to which platform. Meanwhile, someone needs to be on the lookout for the next hot app or service.
CondÃ© Nast International isnâ€™t the only publisher creating this type of role. In February, Vox Media appointed Choire Sicha, a former journalist with Gawker and co-founder of the Awl Network, to become its director of partner platforms in an attempt to strengthen its ties with distribution partners.
â€œWe have to understand the nuances of these platforms and build relationships with them,â€ said Melissa Bell, Vox Mediaâ€™s vice president for growth and co-founder of Vox.com. â€œItâ€™s become so important that it really does require a dedicated expert. We want somebody who can really focus entirely on that.â€
Before Mr. Sichaâ€™s appointment, multiple people at Vox Media would engage in conversations with various people working at platforms, Ms. Bell said.
Indeed, companies such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Apple and Snapchat have had publisher relationship staffers for some time. Those platforms are now aggressively courting publishers to distribute content on their behalf, with the hopes that doing so will make their own services more attractive to consumers.
For publishers, the idea of a dedicated platform relationship specialist was unheard of a year ago. Now, as publishers like Vox pursue a â€œdistributedâ€ publishing strategy, where their content increasingly appears on distribution networks beyond their own websites, itâ€™s easy to see how multiple platform relationship specialists might be required.
â€œIn a few years we might look back and ask how one person could manage all this. Maybe in the future there will be a person dedicated to video-based platforms and another dedicated to feed-based platforms,â€ Mr. Blau said.
Ms. Bell echoed that sentiment.
â€œThis is the fun part in that thereâ€™s unlimited possibility at this point,â€ she said. â€œThe future is wide open.â€
Write to Jack Marshall at Jack.Marshall@wsj.com
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