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Content Is Fine, but a Platform Is Divine

A few weeks ago, in a post called “Twitter Is the New Flea Market“, I explored possible answers to my question: is the Internet simply one large flea market?

I wrote:

When I think about all the people trying to sell their services/products on Twitter, I think about a large, bustling flea market on a Saturday afternoon.

Twitter is a big empty field where all the vendors set up their tents and tables, peddling their wares. Most of these goods are the same, but the vendors do their best to sell you, taunting you with their tempting deals and charming outbursts.

Cultivating an online presence is definitely an important aspect of any business’s marketing campaign. But that doesn’t mean social media marketing is the be-all, end-all strategy for attracting new customers and creating a solid brand.

Innovation means pushing the boundaries both on and offline.

Reviewing my initial ideas, I realized that these same observations can be applied to the numerous online magazines/newspapers and print publications trying to cultivate their online presence. So many people keep asking: how can a website that only offers content make any money? How can content be a commodity?

Sadly, I don’t think content in itself can be a commodity, at least not in the digital marketplace. Readers are so spoiled by free digital content that they will skip pay-to-read content for the (usually) poorly-researched, poorly-written version.

How does a media company, especially an emerging media company, earn a solid enough reputation to entice readers to pay? The New York Times can flirt with the prospect of offering premium online content because they are The New York Times.

I have thought about this question as it relates to Too Shy to Stop, the online arts and culture magazine that I founded in 2008. Sure, offering great content on a regular basis is an admirable endeavor, but doing simply that is a dead end.

Without the Internet and WordPress, Too Shy to Stop and this blog would not exist. Who knows? Maybe, in an Internet-less world, I would spend my nights cutting and binding pages to make a zine that I mail out to my loyal subscribers. It doesn’t matter.

My reality includes plans for a private Too Shy to Stop companion website (it existed once on a basic level) that satisfies very specific ideas and needs I have related to the site and potential advertisers. I will need to create a platform that doesn’t yet exist.

I stumbled upon this blog post by Valeria Maltoni, who built one of the first online communities associated with Fast Company magazine.

She writes:

What if Twitter goes away one day soon in the way many publications and media channels have in the last couple of years? What if Facebook decides to charge you a steep fee to even develop a fan page, create a group or build a community there?

What happens to your content? Where are the connections going? How will you reestablish that influence?

Yep, all those social networking gurus, online marketers, make-money-online specialists, etc. will lose their greatest (free) tool. They all desperately depend on tools like Twitter, and their inability to innovate and create a proprietary medium will eventually be their downfall.

You know that Destiny’s Child song “Independent Woman“? They sing, “’cause I depend on me”. To be a media company, you have to CREATE a new platform that is wholly your own.

Online publications will not make money by simply offering content, no matter how good the content. They will make money by leveraging new and innovative technologies and personalizing these technologies to fit their needs, audience, and image.

(Photo by goodrob13)

Laryssa Wirstiuk is a social media marketing and online image consultant. Learn more about how she can help you and your business gain friends and customers by visiting Comma ‘n Sentence Consulting.

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