Skip down to main content

The Power of Platforms

With Professor Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, and Dr Sarah Ganter
9 Nov 2022
With Professor Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, and Dr Sarah Ganter

More people today get news via Facebook and Google than via any news organization in history, and platforms like Twitter serve news to more people than all but the biggest media companies. This presentation draws on interviews and other data to analyze the “platform power” a few technology companies as a consequence have come to exercise in public life, the reservations publishers have about platforms—as well as the reasons why they often embrace them nonetheless.

Most of the news content we rely on is still produced by journalists working for news organizations. But the way in which we discover it, how it is distributed, where decisions are made on what to display (and what not), and who profits from our behavior—all this is changing rapidly as people increasingly rely on social media, search engines, and aggregators offered by large platform companies to access news, and publishers in turn seek to reach people via the platforms they rely on.

To understand the new, distinct relational and generative forms of power that platforms exercise, this presentation analyzes how they have evolved from the early days of Google’s first forays into news. Examining the different ways publishers have responded and how various platform companies have in turn handled the increasingly important and controversial role they play, it draws out the implications of a fundamental feature of our world we all need to understand: that the news media are simultaneously empowered by and dependent upon a few powerful private, for-profit technology companies.

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen is Director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and Professor of Political Communication at the University of Oxford

Sarah Anne Ganter is Assistant Professor in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University