Under the aggregation construct, the companies which control value are not usually the ones who created them. Google News and Facebook control news distribution in Nigeria than Guardian, ThisDay and others. Because the ICT utilities “own” the demand and the customers, the advertisers focus on them, hoping to reach the readers through them. Just like that, the primary news creators have been systematically disintermediated (i.e. sidelined) as they earn less and less from their works. But aggregators like Facebook and Google smile to the bank.
The reason this happens is because of the abundance which the Internet makes possible. If suppliers of news are infinite (anyone can share content now via Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn, etc with minimal gatekeepers), what matters to readers who can simplify the experiences of discovery. Whenever there is a major news break, people typically begin by searching on Google, not by visiting each newspaper. Google then takes them to the website with the best information. Advertisers now understand that the real value created is with Google which simplifies the discovery process. This has affected the revenue base of many global publishers. We have seen paywalls being added on the websites of these firms to improve revenue.
News leaders like New York Times understand this redesign. Yes, who control demand, not necessarily supply, win. It has been investing to own and control demand (i.e. the users). That way, it becomes a platform of itself. This explains why it now offers gaming in its platform. Yes, become a paying customer and you will have many games to play along. The company simply wants to control and influence demand because it wants them to stay longer to sell them things. And to explain why this is a clear strategy, it sends emails telling potential subscribers to subscribe partly to have the opportunity to play these games.
The Nigerian newspaper brands have something they can learn here: news platforms are evolving. The age of just news which Google could disintermediate is gone. You need to offer a clear differentiator to keep those readers coming. Here at Tekedia, we have a mini-school we call Tekedia Mini-MBA. If you are a newspaper and want to partner with us, we are open.
In the digital age, what matters is not who controls supply, but who controls demand. Supply is largely infinite as there are many ways to get to the web, and because it is infinite, users congregate to platforms to help them navigate and make sense of the web.
In 1980, before the digital age as we have it today, the most powerful people in media were newspaper publishers. They were the people you needed to reach to get your message to the world. They decided what everyone read on the dailies and they were powerful. They controlled supply and by controlling supply, they shaped everything including advertising.