Generative Media Networks: Fueling growth through action: Introduction

Strong digital media businesses fuel valuable activity across networks.

While the things that media organizations produce can define the brand, what happens as a result of producing an article, some data, a picture, a video, a package of stories, a sponsored message, a retail advertisement is what defines the value of the business.

In particular, it’s the generative media platforms that become the strongest.

This means that a platform benefits from the actions that their customers, participants and users take and then, crucially, reflects more value back out to them as a result of their actions, encouraging them to do more.

Those actions may be as simple as spending time with an article or buying a book, or it may be as complicated as managing a community or even campaigning for causes.

It’s about empowering people, supporting and helping people to accomplish things.

In the same way the reality of things observed are affected by the observer (ie “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”) media businesses have a co-dependency with their customers.

For newspaper businesses, that co-dependency was traditionally managed through paper, trucks and newsstands in the past.  Then in the early Internet years, most media brands’ web sites served merely as new access points, a co-dependence defined by the digital newsstand also known as Google.

The domain-as-distribution model works, but it is also incomplete and doesn’t embrace the larger powers inherent in networks.

The mesh-like characteristics of the Internet reward platform approaches to media, one where the actions of one node in the network can be interpreted by the platform as additive information for other nodes on the network to use.

How does a news-driven business operate in a network-shaped marketplace?

There’s a common model amongst many of the most successful Internet companies…they function as platforms for a network of activity.  As a result, all their moving parts and relationships resemble an ecosystem.

I’ll try to use this series to articulate what that looks like to me.  It comes from a bit of experience trying to make such a thing work and from lots of observation across the market over a few years now.

In this case, I’m exploring how to tackle it from 3 different points of view.  I’ll start with some larger market context.  Then I’ll go into a more operational context, showing lots of examples. Finally, I’ll look at how the trajectory sheds light on what the future may hold for this model.

Where possible I’ll use examples from what we’re doing at the Guardian to illustrate what I’m talking about, but, to be clear, this is not a definitive strategy, by any means.  I’m posting it all here in hopes that others will chime in and help evolve the concepts further or show me better ways to think about this stuff.

This series is an attempt to assemble some ideas I’ve been exploring for a while.  Most of it is new, and some of it is from previous blog posts and recent-ish presentations. I’ve split the document up into a series of posts on the blog here, but it can also be downloaded in full as a PDF or viewed as a sort of ebook via Scribd: