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Don’t build your house in somebody else’s yard.


“Social began to eat Search. Scale mattered. Was everything. Until, all of a sudden, it wasn’t anymore. Then relationships mattered, and so on.” – Nicholas Dawes’ 2017 Media Indaba keynote on the hot new thing in media technology

In 2014, LittleThings, a feel-good entertainment company, was founded and by 2018, it was thriving with over 20M social media followers and 900M video views. However, the company heavily relied on Facebook for growth. When Facebook decided to prioritize hard-hitting news over feel-good content, LittleThings lost 90% of its organic traffic overnight. The company was told to pay for ads to regain traffic, but the cost was too high. This led to the downfall of LittleThings, which was about to close a $100M deal. Joe Speiser, the founder advises media companies to diversify growth channels and be adaptable to change.

Big Tech unveils new feature X, causing a rush in the news ecosystem to harness X’s potential for growth. Content creators invest significant sums into producing content for X. Initially, ad rates on X are profitable, but they decline as the marketplace becomes saturated. The main beneficiary? Big Tech, with its newly established X marketplace. Content creators may make marginal profits, which they then invest into the next X trend.

Kickstarting the herd behavior: Each wave locks content creators into a prisoner’s dilemma.

  • If all players implement the new wave, the market becomes commoditized, and more control shifts upstream.
  • If only some adopt this wave, they may see short-term gains and you’ll lose out.
  • The only solution is if no content creator jumps onto the bandwagon.
  • But to break this, most BigTech platforms give out cash and incentives to some content creators to kickstart the prisoner’s dilemma.

Past waves: SEO optimization in 2010, the Mobile Apps wave in 2014, the mobile web wave in 2017 with Instant Articles and AMP, video in 2018, web stories in 2020, web vital in 2021 and various others including Social waves, voice apps, chat apps, Podcasts, Subscription, and VR.

Between the lines: These industry shifts are, in fact, downstream effects of tech advancements and Big Tech’s growth. Recognizing them as transient opportunities, not permanent features, is essential. They’re not sustainable Competitive Differentiation as they’re accessible to all.

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