Some of the greatest innovations originated by the web are based on disintermediation: one decade ago, "cut the middle man" was one of the most frequently used descriptions of how existing business models would be impacted by the new economy. It is easy to see what this means in highly commoditized industries, but what about the media? Does it make any sense? Is this the correct framework to interpret the old blogs vs newspapers debate, all things considered?
With its Open Platform, the Guardian is making an impressive job in exploring new opportunities, and trying to be the ones who disintermediate their own core business. The basic message of the initiative is in my opinion: "we are giving out something which you may eventually take away from us anyway, but we're trying to make a business of it instead of being angry and complain about the web".
And what they are giving out is a set of programming libraries to let partners use their "thoroughly tagged" content and their archives – and anybody can become a partner, by simply requiring a developer key.
Reactions are enthusiastic, and I believe it is indeed a very remarkable step forward in visualizing – and actually building – one possible future for the publishing/media industry.
Referring to the opportunity chart in my previous post about value exchanges in the newspaper industry, what directions are they exploring?
Content: from publisher to writer
By making their reference data and archived content available, the Guardian is activating a new exchange to happen between themselves and a large number of authors which were not previously able to make use of it. Most of all, by making it programmatically accessible (and not simply by publishing it in a human-readable format), the are activating new opportunities for innovative use of their own legacy.
Reputation: from publisher to writer
Quality data and fact-checking facilities are obviously giving a boost to writers' ability to provide quality content by activating the partnership and adding reputable reference to their content.
Attention: from writer to publisher to advertiser
Enabling a new channel by brokering readers' attention from writers' blogs to advertisers, and this is precisely what I mean when I say "disintermediate their own business" – and in a very courageous way indeed. It looks like a win-win proposition, as (according to the Terms and conditions)
OPG* Content, without accounting to us for any share in the revenue
generated by such advertising.
* "Open Platform by The Guardian"
A list of early adopters are listed in this OPG blog entry. I'm looking forward to see what will come out of this brilliant initiative…