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THE OVERUSED BUZZWORD “PLATFORM”
Welcome back. I hope you are enjoying the relaunch of the Sunday ZEITGUIDE newsletter where we give you a “ZEITBITE” from the 60-minute Culture Class“meal” we had this past week. Read it below, listen or watch a 3-minute explainer on YouTube, Spotify or Apple Podcasts.
One of the many subjects I illuminated this past week was on the true definition of the over- and misused word, platform.
There were 2 reasons why this was one of this week’s topics:
With the Emmys today and NBCUniversal’s reveal that its streaming service will be called “Peacock,” many are calling these streaming services, streaming platforms, which I explain is an incorrect use of the term.
California Governor Gavin Newsome signs a law that protects “Gig Economy” workers, and then Uber defends itself by explaining that their drivers don’t work for them: “We are a platform, not a taxi company.” Translation: Their platform is merely an ecosystem where drivers and those in need of rides can find each other.
So when we discussed this, one of my Culture Class students asked:
The word “platform” is used in a lot of different ways; it’s almost gone hackneyed in the way it’s used because everybody wants to be a platform. So when you say the economy is dictated by “platform” companies, can you be more explicit about the characteristics of what those companies are?
A platform company is one that owns the digital space where consumers and business owners can join to exchange value amongst themselves.
Such examples are Airbnb, Uber, and Amazon. They provide the platform for house owners/renters to connect with vacation seekers, drivers with riders, and buyers with sellers of product, respectively. These platforms profit by taking a percentage of the transaction without owning any of the above.
Netflix, Disney +, Hulu and Peacock amongst the many other streaming services aren’t platforms, as they don’t allow for content producers and consumers to transact independently. They are not platforms but services that own or license content, and consumers are paying them for their entire library of content.
I actually provoke my media clients to think about whether they should evolve into platforms like YouTube or Instagram, allowing consumers and 3rd-party businesses to sell their own intellectual property or products. Becoming a platform could provide more ways to keep users within their walled gardens, as well as to make more money. However, becoming a platform could also create more chaos and a lack of control.
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