Platforms and Content – The business model of the 21th century

The combination of platform and content is the new go-to business models and the big corporates are fighting hard to get there

Amazon is buying the rights of UEFA Championships, Disney is launching/expanding its own content platform and many more new entrants in the market of content and platforms. The times where companies focus on products and services are over. We all experience a fight for the attention of the customer. Shortening attention spans, limited time availability and an explosion of content lead to a fight for the most valuable asset. A platform where we can all gather and combine the attention is worth billions.

Marketing is getting expensive – Content is not that easy

Several years ago every company tried to be at the top of the google search pages. Content Marketing was one of the most successful ways to generate additional traffic to get “easy leads”. But as every company started to make posts, blogs etc., the excess on information lead to a flood of knowledge. Content is getting harder to rank and the content-amount needed is growing exponentially. This leads to an aggregation of attention to the bigger brands. Just recently also Google announced that they will now Rank “Brand before Content” which means that the brands are a better ranking factor than the content itself.

This is also why at the beginning I mentioned that there is a platform AND content strategy needed. A single company alone can not deal anymore with the requirements to be a real “authority” on the internet. So, people need to work on collaborative solutions, so called platforms, to get their messages and their brands out in the area of short attention and big content aggregators.

The case with Google

In reality it is very interesting to see that even big companies like Google are struggling to switch from a product and service-oriented business model to an attention and platform model. With a more than 90% market dominance on searches, Google managed to be at the display of every person in the world. But when we look at the performance of attention platforms, Google lacks behind.

Their business model never really involved the community and the platform. Google tried to bring together a platform to capture more of the user’s attention, but Google+ failed after the users didn’t find the network and the content they were looking for. Maybe it is also interesting to know that every Google Mail/Google Account user was automatically also a Google+ user. So, one would assume that they should have had a huge advantage when they can access such a big user base.

Content and Attention as the new Gold-Standard

When we are looking at the current market dynamics then we see several companies spiking. All of them are connected to an ecosystem, a platform-economy and content driven business models. As an example, we can also analyze Amazon and their underlying business model.

Amazon built its brand, its attention-grabbing machine, with their online shop. Google might be the biggest search engine in the world but amazon managed to have more search queries when it comes to product searches. So, people are more likely to search at the amazon search bar instead of the google search bar to find their product of choice.

When looking at the numbers of revenue, profit and business unit statements of Amazon we will find an interesting trend. The Net-Profit margin of the product platform amazon.com are minimal. The growing share of services in their ecosystem is driving their profit growth and made them one of the most profitable companies in the world. Amazon is great at capturing the attention of the customer and using this to offer their services at different stages of the customer journey.

What can I do? – Building a platform and content is not easy

We just learned before that even companies like Google failed at building such platforms who can really scale and grow. But even on a smaller scale it can be challenging to build a platform that reaches more than just a few hundred or thousand people per month. So I give some tips from my personal experience how such a project could work.

1 Content is “commodity”

One of the first and biggest mistakes for new platforms is to see it as a product or service they are offering and then start to monetize on it. Content CAN be monetized if it fulfills an “value adding” aspect. But in general, you have to look at it like something that just has a value as an asset but not as a product to sell.

2 Get the Vision right

Every platform needs people who fill the platform but also follow the ideas. A strong Vision, Mission and also community is needed to give everybody a possibility to identify with the platform and to give this platform the attention which is needed to let it grow.

3 It’s not about Marketing

From my experience every “marketing-only” platform never had a chance to grow big. I assume it is clear after reading the 2nd point in this list, that you need to give added value and something value adding before you start with pure sales driven messaging to your customers.

4 Grow a community

One of the most important aspects is a community. Amazon doesn’t actually have an community behind it. But it is the value proposition, the service statement and also the personal commitment which made it a virtual community. But on smaller scales much more effort should be made when dealing with communities. Regular Meetups, parties, insider-events and much more are needed to build your base and also build on top of it.

5 It is a Marathon and not a sprint

From my experience it is easier said than done. Times changed and attention and reach are hard to get. Calculate for more than just a few months to build something that actually gets traction. Platforms are tough to build, lots of different players are trying to grab the attention and also the big players are dominating the market.

6 Partners are key

When you look at building a platform, it is per definition that you need to build it together with others. This also means partners and they can be key. Bring them an added value, try to involve them or directly work together to create something bigger.

7 Prepare to fail

In my career I have seen and sometimes even accompanied a lot of these content platform business models. But to be fully frank, you need to see that there are just few projects which survive these market dynamics and can grow beyond the basics. So be prepared to fail or have a plan B ready. (Partner with other platforms, rather work together instead of competing etc.)

8 Have fun

As I said before, it is a community driven thing. If you don’t have fun with your own topic and if you only do it for business purpose, then you will also see that people don’t want to follow you. Disney is doing a great job in having fun with their community, building experiences and also involving their followers when it comes to the next steps. This can be also applied in small scales

Verdict

It is a an ever more complicated world to get your brand seen and also grab the attention of customers. This is why big corporates are shifting from products and services to a platform model where the content and attention is in the center of the value proposition. These content-driven business models capture way more from the market and enable to implement more than just one business model into an existing user-base.

If you try to build a platform, take care that you are not selling out the core community and that you are trying to monetize content which is now a “commodity” good. Try to give them a value adding core and then build business models around this core so you are monetizing your content platform on different fields. Digital Transformation is so way more than just a platform, focus on the transformational part of this change.

Serien-Unternehmer seit er erfolgreich mit 13 Jahren die ersten Firmen gründete. Seit jeher hinterfrägt er den «Status Quo» und setzt sich für Innovation, Disruption und neue Ideen ein. Als internationaler Keynote-Speaker, Berater für Firmen und Staaten, Dozent und veröffentlichter Digital Transformation Experte versucht Benjamin international die Themen der Digitalisierung, digitalen Transformation und Innovation voranzutreiben.

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