Is publishing about to get Spotified?

Publishing could be Spotified within five years. iTunes only needed a year to take ascendancy over record labels, and now Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and Facebook Instant Articles (IA) promise the same fate for publishers.

The implied end goal for both is a platform publishing future that mirrors the platform-dominated present of the music industry, where publishers are pure content creators with exclusive output channels. At this stage however, that future remains hypothetical, rather than a reality, and here’s why:

The new formats aren’t being used by everyone

The key groundwork for iTunes was having all the major record labels signed up. Having some, but not all content, is a headache for platforms, with Spotify’s ongoing spat with Taylor Swift only the most high profile instance of this. Publishers are looking to emulate key features of AMP and IA in their own offerings, without committing to the new formats.

And even those who are using them, aren’t totally convinced

Some of Facebook IA’s earliest adopters are becoming more sceptical of the promise of the platform. In its current form, they’ve seen that for a swifter experience, they’ve sacrificed analytics and the mobile traffic they could command before IA was introduced.

National Geographic and NBC News, which were both in the first wave of publishers on the format, have dropped their output. After initially posting in high volume, they are now adjusting their strategy based on initial learnings: it works as a format in their arsenal, but cannot be their only tool if they want to maintain control over distribution. Publishers more generally are unwilling to become totally dependent on the format without greater control and incentives for them.

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