Friday Buzz: Is Online Content Destined to Consolidate?

Ev Williams, a founder of three popular online services, has some fascinating thoughts about the open web. Also: why redesigns are about more than fonts.

Are we moving away from blogging and other digital offerings as something that is controlled by the individual, and instead controlled by a larger companies?

Ev Williams would argue so, which, based on his early career, is strange. Williams helped found Blogger, a platform that did so much to democratize content that it turned the word “blog” into a term nearly as synonymous as “internet.” Then, he helped found Twitter, a platform that did the same thing with the word “tweet.”

His current offering, Medium, hasn’t created a new word that could be described in such terms, but it could prove nearly as influential as the internet becomes more siloed off. In a profile in The Atlantic, Williams said that the open nature of blogging won’t go away—but the way content is distributed online might.

“There’s still a bunch of stuff on the web. The stuff we read everyday, the stuff you write, is on the web. And that’s great,” says Williams. “There’s still the fact that anyone, at any time, can create their own website and start publishing, and they have a voice—I mean that’s the idea that I got really excited about almost 20 years ago. I think that will continue. I think the openness of voices is not going to consolidate back to the old days of media. I think the distribution points are going to consolidate.”

At one point, he compares the internet to legacy industries like railroad, cable, and electricity, explaining that this sort of consolidation “tends to happen because of the power of network effects and the economies of scale.” It’s no surprise, then, that Medium centralizes content in this way.

But even as he says this, he struggles with the end game that might arise from the phenomenon, which is why this Atlantic long read is worth peering through. It might spark some important thoughts about your content strategy.

Time to Freshen Up Your Mag?

Redesigns are not easy, and they require a lot of discussion and thinking through to get right. The physical elements of the design matter less than you think, says Naylor Association Solutions Senior Content Strategist Heather Williams.

“If your publication team does decide a brand evolution is needed, know that there is so much more that goes into a magazine’s brand aside from its title, the styling of its nameplate, and the fonts and graphics. It goes way beyond that,” she explains in a blog post.

Instead, she says it’s all about the promise you make to your readers with that design. Check her post to get a few ideas for getting the redesign discussion going the right way.

Other Links of Note

Thinking of using Periscope? Andy Sharpe, who recently used the app to lead a group songwriting session, explains on MultiBriefs the practical pluses and minuses of the live-streaming platform.

Looking to boost your online fundraising? This new guide from Firefly Partners offers a helpful compare and contrast of online engagement tools that marketers can use.

Attract new members. Frank J. Kenny’s blog features some ideas to maximize your member referral program.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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