YouTube: Traditional Media Substituted and Platformed

The media industry has also been disrupted by digital platforms. What is specific about this industry is that disruption simultaneously takes the form of substitution, as with the postal industry, and platformization, as with telecoms.

Traditional media are being substituted as platforms are competing for the attention of the audience and succeeding in obtaining a larger share of advertising dollars. Individuals, particularly children and millennials, are spending more time on platforms such as Facebook and YouTube, and less time reading newspapers, listening to the radio, or watching traditional TV networks. User-generated content is cheap to produce (it is often free for the platform), audiences run into the billions, and advertisement is personalized and therefore more profitable. Consequently, a large share of adverting is migrating to the new media.

Nevertheless, audiences crave more curated content. Well researched and presented news are always of interest. Splendidly produced TV shows, series, movies, and live sporting events attract large audiences. Professionally produced content will always be relevant, just as telecom infrastructure will. They cannot be substituted.

The relevance of high-quality content does not mean that traditional content producers cannot be disrupted. They are being disrupted, but in a different way. On one hand, platforms are intermediating the access by the audience to the traditional media. Individuals are increasingly having access to articles and video through platforms. Professional content is aggregated and displayed as another option in YouTube, Facebook Newsfeed, Netflix, and so on.

On the other hand, platforms are intermediating the access by the advertisers to the advertising space displayed by traditional media. Platforms have a relevant (one could say non-transparent) role in the intermediation of digital advertisement, even when it is displayed in legacy media sites. Traditional media are increasingly relying on platforms, particularly Google, to sell their advertising space.

Platforms attract the attention of large audiences themselves and thus act as the gatekeepers for audiences and advertising money to reach the traditional media. The algorithms developed by the platforms decide which content is displayed, when and how often it is proposed, and how advertising money is distributed across the ecosystem.

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