Two weeks ago (wow I’ve delayed on this post…), I was invited to be part of the launch event for the commercial expansion of the Guardian’s Open Platform. The day started with a range of short talks about the various elements of the new Platform: the technical aspects, the commercial guidelines, the possible use-cases etc. It then went into a hack-day where commercial partners were invited to give short briefs to Guardian developers.
One of the Guardian’s recent mantras has been to “weave their content into the fabric of the web.” This commercial launch really helps structure that approach and gives a pretty frictionless method of using Guardian content – which can only help in achieving their aims.
My key takeaways were as follows (quotes are paraphrased):
“We are moving from a publisher to a platform” – Mike Bracken
This is a very smart way of wording the transition that old media must make to survive. And it succinctly describes the Guardian’s strategic direction. If the entire organisation, including the newsroom, can start thinking in this way, then the huge value of their expertise and influence in the media landscape can be harnessed for much more than news publishing.
“Our industry is at a decision point: open or closed. We are betting on open, and that digital ad revenues will continue to grow.” – Adam Freeman
Despite being a barely veiled stab at the now-live Times site which requires registration and payment, this simplifies the decision process that every major newspaper is having to make. However, it is worth pointing out that, as we have found recently with Facebook, ‘open’ doesn’t necessarily mean friendly or non-commercial, or free.
“We have been determined to innovate whilst cutting costs. This Open Platform has taken 18 months of development.” – Adam Freeman
What I love about this statement, is that the Guardian have a plan (!). Now clearly other newspapers have a plan too, and I understand that in this rapidly changing landscape every strategy must be iterative. But that being said, a decision must have been made at least 2 years ago, and whilst cutting costs, investment must have been made (or protected) in the technical implementation of this platform. And now it will be handed over to the commercial team for exploitation. Obviously it could all fail on the actual uptake (but I’m betting it won’t), but at this early stage it does seem that they have had the ability to discern the market trends, identify the opportunity, and execute.
Another key theme of the morning was that of distributed content: the realisation that if they stay on a website, their audience will go elsewhere, but if they allow their content to go where the audience is, there are gains to be realised. This is the platform (rather than the publisher) in action.
So far, all impressive talk. There were also some good case-studies of Guardian content on other brand sites, and even external content pulled into the Guardian website via embedded applications. This demonstrates their “open in, open out” approach, where external content and applications can be used in the Guardian as well as Guardian content being used elsewhere.
So for the next steps, three things stuck out to me:
- The Guardian will now go and build an open authentication system across Guardian sites, instead of just using the current closed registration system. (Lots of learnings from Facebook here…)
- They are open to developers building applications to be embedded with the guardian.co.uk with a revenue share. (Oh oh oh…. yes please!)
- There is a huge opportunity for brands who want quality content on their own sites and applications. (We are already building brand content solutions for some major clients, and the ease of integrating the Guardian’s content is huge. Get in touch if you want to know more…)
All in all, the announcements (and more the thinking behind the announcements) certainly got my attention. I have written a lot about the rise of brand publishing and content marketing, and this is the leading example of a major publisher realising and positioning themselves for a trend that will open up a huge and profitable market.
NB: For another post summarising this event, please read the very savvy Nick Burcher‘s post.
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