Great, great article from my old mate Alan Jones in Oz, on the importance of owning your own platform if you’re an online business, as opposed to outsourcing it:
If youâ€™re a web business, how well your web platform works defines the success or failure of almost every metric of your business: converting consumers to customers, average revenue per customer, customer churn, competitive moves, and most crucially of all, time-to-iterate. Name a big, successful web business that is still on an outsourced platform.
I could not agree more, and I’d add that this creates enormous tension at times in media businesses, because the connection has often not been made between the old “platform” (which might have been, say, a printing press plus editorial content system, or a commissioning structure and a brand, or a studio and a set of transmission contracts) and the new “platform”, which will normally be some combination of content production and management system, hosting arrangement and ancillary technologies (search, stats, sign-in etc. etc.).
In fact, media companies didn’t even think of their old processes and technologies as platforms, but that’s what they were. If you’re a magazine and you can’t add a new colour to your cover, that’s a platform issue and needs to be resolved. Framing operational questions like that often helps explain Alan’s argument: that you shouldn’t outsource your platform if you want to control your business. If you want to see this in action, check out Nik Silver’s excellent series of articles on the Guardian’s technical rebuild. You’ll see a company in control of its destiny, able to make operational decisions, and able to control costs. It takes longer, but by God it’s worth it.