Media = content + people

We can’t see the internet for the wires. We talk about the internet as technology — computers and cables — but more and more I see it as people: people connected with each other, people speaking, people shopping, people learning.

I am finally seeing media the same way: people, unmediated. This is the basis of our new degree in social journalism at CUNY. And this is a worldview and business model confirmed by Samir Arora, CEO of Mode Media (aka Glam) in a session I moderated at this week’s DLD conference in Munich. Samir presented a new taxonomy for media companies and a new view of their profitability based less on the value of their content than on the value and scale of the people they connect. It’s a new, powerful, and unappreciated vision.

I have been writing about the power of networks for a long time and that is why Samir walked into my office seven years ago saying he had to show me a slide of his, because it confirmed what I’d been saying. This ugly bit of PowerPoint — often compared to some bizarre biological experiment — exhibited the scale Glam had achieved as a web property over rival iVillage. Glam did that by building networks of independent bloggers instead of owning, creating, and syndicating content, the old way. In short order, Glam had beat iVillage.

Screenshot 2015-01-19 at 6.13.00 PM

Since then, Glam and its associated brands — collectively Mode Media — have grown from 20 million uniques in the U.S. to more than 400 million worldwide. Mode is now the seventh largest web property. iVillage is gone.

How did Glam do that? People.

406 slide 2

In Munich, Samir presented his analysis of media sites with this slide. It is worth studying.

grid slide 2

On the left are content companies, on the right platforms.

In the top right box are companies that don’t pay for traffic or content. Examples: Facebook, Twitter.

In the next box down are companies that don’t pay for traffic but do pay for content via revenue share — that is, only content that makes money. Examples: YouTube, Mode.

In the next box down and to the left are companies that don’t pay for traffic but do pay for content they create, whether it is seen and monetized or not. Examples: Yahoo, Aol/HuffingtonPost.

In the next down are companies operating under the classic media model that pay for content and pay to market it. Examples: Most any newspaper or magazine company, and Samir puts BuzzFeed there.

Then come ad networks and technology companies, which create little value themselves but profit from tremendous volume.

Now look at the margins on the left. Samir defines media margins as profit after the cost of content and traffic. Note how high the margins are at the top and how much they fall off. What makes the companies at the top so profitable? They enable people to both publish and share. They don’t make or buy content on the come. These are the new social media companies — that is, media companies that grow by being social.

explan slide 2

Finally, Samir took a chart the Washington Post made looking at the top 20 web properties over the last two decades, marking the growth of Facebook (which operates at the upper right of his chart) and breaking out YouTube.

ramp slide 2

Samir became a friend and I advised Glam and so we talk often and when we do we always marvel that more media companies have not learned the value of networks. Today at the World Economic Forum at Davos, I just moderated a session on extending the Forum’s work on updating copyright to other industries and other forms of what we call intellectual property but I prefer to just call creativity. At the end, the founder of a startup came to me and contrasted the attitude of entrepreneurs with that of big media and manufacturing companies in the room. They all care about making products, he said, but we don’t. We care about networks. That’s is where the value is. The value of Facebook — his example — is not its product, its intellectual property. It’s value is its networks.

Its people.

  • Edward Ericson Jr

    This is so awesome! I would totally quit my day job to become a socialpreneur and make money by linking and monetizing everyone else’s content, except that I have a soul.

  • steve

    i’m wondering if jeff would see glam’s network as the text version of a mutli-channel network.


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  • Samir Arora /:-)

    Thank Jeff,

    Here are the other slides we used for the keynote: The emotion of content: Do we need cats to go viral; The change in media time use: the growth of social feeds; What do platforms do: What Mode Media does; and the Science of content @ scale

  • Sara Wells

    I don’t know how much I like the fact that now instead of the quality of the content, it’s a matter of the people you can get to look at it. However, while you do have to use the successful platforms, social media, etc., do you think that the content has to be good to KEEP people coming? Anyone can visit a site one time, but to really cultivate a following, do you still need good content? I’d love to hear from you on my blog, or via email.

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  • This is one of the best articles I’ve read in the past few weeks!

    I especially like the introduction by the way… Reminds me of a Seth Godin talk in which he said “we are moving towards a connection economy” :-)

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  • Ellie HIrschhorn

    Does Mode work with any major newspapers or magazines and if so, how would Mode’s approach differ from recent Facebook’s approach to publishers from the publisher’s pov?

  • Ellie Hirschhorn

    Does Mode work with any major newspaper or magazine companies now and if so, how does their deal compare to what Facebook “Instant Articles” program will be offering form the pov of these traditional media companies? Tradeoff of traffic for loss of relationship with your users?

  • It seems that people get this a bit backwards. What the post actually states is that you need very good content to be a part of a desirable human network – if you only curate you don’t necessarily get links back and if you have good content, but you never link to others, again there is no reason to link back.

    This is how I’d see a valuable human network – people in it value each other and value their own reputation by not linking to less valuable content (for their contacts). As the net is now I’m not all together sure whether the internet works like this – there is so much dreck in the net – but this seems to be a powerful idea.