Brands

Platishers: The New Trend Content Marketers Need to Know About

By Herbert Lui May 29th, 2014

It’s time to make room for a new buzzword in your life: “the platisher.”

(Editor’s note: My first guess was that “platisher” was a term for media companies where everyone dresses up as platypuses for fun. I could see VICE doing this on Fridays. This is not the case.)

The platisher, a portmanteau coined by Sulia CEO Jonathan Glick in an article for Re/code, is a hybrid between a platform and a publisher. Connoting sites such as Gawker or BuzzFeed, platishers are publishers that provide the audience with a platform to contribute content in an effort to and generate traffic and create engaged advocates.

Now, brands are getting in on the action, too, which may come as a surprise. Until recently, such a model had been frowned upon since the the AOL days of the Internet, as brands and media companies alike fretted that allowing anyone and everyone to contribute and publish on their official platform might jeopardize their credibility.

But times have changed in the social media age. Those three magic words—user-generated content—make brands’ mouths water today. Following in the footsteps of publishers like BuzzFeed, Forbes, and Gawker, brands are integrating the platisher model into their content marketing initiatives to build a community around their audience.

The heart of every community is a group of people that share common values. Magazines have tapped into communities in the past by finding specific niches and appealing to the interest of certain groups. Today, brands and companies are doing the same. It’s true that a community could form around any abstract concept, from travelling to cleaning solutions. A quick glance at all of Reddit’s subreddits provides insight into what people are fascinated with and passionate about.

Let’s look at some of the unique platishers that are the result of publishing or branding experiments, and the strategies they are implementing:

Sephora: empowering advocates

Advocates have always been an essential part of advertising and marketing. Now platishers have become a viable medium for people to advocate a product and establish trends within the brand itself, especially for online retailers. Cosmetics company Sephora has been leading the way in many initiatives that includes creating their own Instagram-like platform for contributors to showcase the successful usage of their products.

Filling the public’s need to share content, image-sharing sites such as Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+ have created havens for social shoppers seeking inspiration. These sites help businesses gauge demand and encourage purchase. Sephora is following suit, developing a user-friendly application with familiar features that is fully functional on smartphones and tablets.

Condé Nast Traveler: authentic amateur travel tales

The traditional top-down model of travel journalism no longer holds the weight it previously had in the eyes of the public. Although professionally produced photographs and highly polished travel stories can still allure audiences, many are finding authentic stories from amateur writers to be just as engaging.

Pilar Guzmán, editor-in-chief of Condé Nast, recognizes this new cultural shift from demanding professional quality to amateur familiarity. Everyone has mobile devices that can capture first-rate (maybe second-rate) pictures, potentially building a larger audience than a professionally published piece could, as well as increasing their social media following.

Condé Nast will integrate contribution from the public with already established writers. According to Digiday, the current goal is to increase the outside bullpen of writers and photographers by 25 during the course of the summer. They will gradually grow the community to around 1,000 contributors. Yet these influencers will only get a small piece of the pie in terms of profit. Finding an affordable way to compensate for community-created content is tricky business. Similar to Forbes, Condé Nast will be paying their community contributors based on traffic goals, and will award bonuses when targets are met. With these incentives, will this encourage publishers to continue chasing pageviews?

Entertainment Weekly: Casual viewer’s reviews

Taking a chapter out of social networks’ books, in late March publisher Entertainment Weekly (EW) established a new platform for outside contribution on their publishing network, appropriately named The Community.

It’s not surprising that EW has decided to source television and movie viewers for expansive coverage. Their strategy: Find users passionate about entertainment and allow them to write insightful recaps and analyses of TV shows for EW readers. Fortunately for EW, people really like writing about television, and there are no shortage of aspiring TV writers looking for clips.

EW understands the new generation’s viewing habits. Television and movie enthusiasts want to have conversations regarding their favorite shows and movies. Most aren’t able to get together and have in-person discussion, so platishers like EW need to offer an alternative. Their goal is to create a system that allows for a large community of viewers and writers to contribute, while keeping the content quality up to par. (Digiday reports that top contributors will have access to EW editors.) And, of course, they also hope grow its own traffic through the increase in content and each contributor’s social media audience.

Similarly, EW’s sister company People has begun engaging celebrities and influencers in the entertainment industry, enabling those with celebrity status to publish their own unique content. This initiative will offer a new level of direct insight, formerly reserved exclusively for top-notch publications. It will also allow People to tap into these celebrities’ followers on social media.

Medium: Amplifying the voice of thought leaders

In an age where everyone’s a publisher, attention is the precious thing that marketers, publishers, platforms, and everyone else is fighting for.

A platisher like Medium—built for consumption and discoverability—has significantly altered the way experts and influencers communicate. It doesn’t encourage them to shout the loudest; instead, it allows them to talk to a crowd that they have already established as their own audience.

As The New York Times highlights, Medium’s integration with social networks helps amplify writers’ voices among their current followers. Inevitably, this helps to spread their work in a much more natural—and arguably tasteful—way.

This model can become a springboard for influencers and thinkers to connect with an audience they wouldn’t have been able to attract if they simply posted on their personal blog or Facebook page.

While the business model is currently in the works, Medium has undeniably attracted attention from social network behemoths and A-list investors. The platisher is hoping to soon have some sections of the site operating under a subscription model, and enable brands to pay to publish work and heighten their discoverability. Their monetization model will evolve along with the platisher model’s development.

Closing thoughts

Platishers have been a winning model for digital publishers and media companies like the Huffington Post and Medium. Brands’ early initiatives using this model have shown promise, but whether they ultimately help sustainably produce bottom-line results and transform pageviews into audience and community members remains to be seen.

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