Damian Collins: Platforms Similar to Traditional Publishers

Platforms which position themselves as conduits are curated spaces similar to news websites argues Damian Collins, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee. Oly Duff noted that news is more popular than ever, but a solution was needed that made the production of quality content sustainable in the digital era.

Speaking at The Guardian’s Changing Media Summit 2018 on a panel called ‘Drawing the Line: Publishers or Platforms’ Collins was joined by Oly Duff, editor of the i, Madhav Chinnappa, the director of strategic relations, news and publishers at Google, and Sam Baker, founder of The Pool. 

Collins argued that “platforms” were more similar to traditional publishers than they were currently treated. A news website is a curated space – the content is commissioned and collected. Platforms have always positioned themselves as mere conduits and facilitators, but the advances in technology and business models meant that this is no longer accurate.

Platforms, he said, assess users’ preferences and then select and prioritise other content on the basis of those preferences, making them semi-curated spaces. If they promote fake news, harmful, or illegal content, they should face responsibility. This was currently not the case, and allowed the richest companies in the world to wash their hands of wrong doing that they facilitate in such a way that is out of sync with other industries. 

Duff pointed out that despite the tough challenges created by the rise of platforms publications such as the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist and The Spectator had record numbers of subscribers, as trusted online news outlets were consumed viewed more than ever before.  The mass of information and disinformation presented to the public online daily had created a premium on reader trust, which was something that quality newsbrands should monopolise and protect.

• The Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham gave evidence to Damian Collins’ DCMS select committee this week and said social media companies, including Facebook, can no longer be considered “benign platforms” for users, as reported by Press Gazette.