A platform-centric philosophy is critical in dealing with the complicated and heated topic of distributed content, said Jonathan Hunt of Vox Media, kicking off the last day of presentations at INMA World Congress 2016.

“To me, platform agnostic has always seemed to be a willingness to go with other trends,” Hunt said in explaining Vox Media’s approach to the packed Shaw Theatre audience Tuesday morning in London.

Jonathon Hunt of Vox Media speaks to the INMA World Congress 2016 audience.
Jonathon Hunt of Vox Media speaks to the INMA World Congress 2016 audience.

Presence on many platforms means people are seeing the company’s content, Hunt explained.

“If you’re not on the platforms, then you’re not seen. And if you’re not seen, then you run the risk of falling out of relevance,” he said.

To ensure that his company stays relevant, Vox regularly puts content on social media platforms Snapchat, Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram.

Hunt also heavily emphasised the importance of building significant brands over building Web sites: “You can’t just think about the things that live on your site being the centre of your brand.”

Vox Media created different brands to target specific audiences such. For instance, Vox is a general interest news brand that works to not just report the news but also explain it to its audience. Eater is a brand dedicated to food, drink, and the local dining scene.

Vox Media likes the idea of building brands around subjects people trust and are passionate about, Hunt explained.

After Hunt, a panel of mostly traditional publishers who are now forced to compete in this distributed content environment took the stage with very different, and sometimes clashing, viewpoints about how to manage their content and other people’s platforms.

Even the #INMA16 audience challenged some of the approaches presented by Robert Shrimsley of Financial Times, Grzegorz Piechota of Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, Malcolm Coles of London’s Telegraph Media Group, and Luca Forlin of Google.

Panelist Grzegorz Piechota, a Harvard Nieman fellow, speaking at INMA World Congress 2016.
Panelist Grzegorz Piechota, a Harvard Nieman fellow, speaking at INMA World Congress 2016.

Piechota provided an overview, describing the frequency with which users receive information from social media platforms as opposed to actual news apps and Web sites. People in North America, for instance, spend an average of four minutes on mobile news sites but a whopping 44 minutes on Facebook.

“Platforms are disrupting markets worldwide,” Piechota said. He described how Facebook, which he called “the world’s biggest newspaper,” has no journalists. And Uber, a major taxi-like service, has no taxis. Airbnb, a major real estate business, has no properties.

Platforms have bigger interaction and engagement, and that they grow faster than traditional products, he said. He advised that publishers learn to cooperate with platforms in order to develop technology standards and grow the industry, cooperate on quality to boost demand, and cooperate to improve productive efficiency.

The four panelists included Robert Shrimsley of Financial Times, Grzegorz Piechota of Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, Malcolm Coles of London’s Telegraph Media Group, and Luca Forlin of Google.
The four panelists included Robert Shrimsley of Financial Times, Grzegorz Piechota of Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, Malcolm Coles of London’s Telegraph Media Group, and Luca Forlin of Google.

Among other advice from the panel:

  • “These platforms are huge and important, but they are not your business,” Shrimsley said. He explained that Financial Times is fundamentally a subscriptions business.

  • Coles advised that publishers not neglect to develop their own websites in lieu of focusing solely on platforms.

  • Forlin advised that companies have a clear goal for each platform and connect back to their core strategy.

The majority of speakers agreed on one thing: No one approach fits all. Publishers must have a unique strategy for each platform.