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The Reader: A Platform Wars Casualty
By: Mike Bush
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As companies like the Washington Post move their content to Facebook’s Instant Articles publishing platform, it begs the question…who is now in charge of making sure customers are happy? This isn’t a shot at Facebook’s recent struggles in…well...keeping it up. Instead, it’s a question of which company will ultimately be responsible for delivering the content that a Washington Post subscriber has paid for.

I ran into this issue with another medium: podcasts.

A few weeks ago, Mike Pesca, host of The Gist, a podcast that’s part of Slate’s Panoply network, took a well-earned vacation. I’m not being sarcastic; it has to be tough to be on-point each and every day, and by and large, The Gist has fantastic content. If the host wants a few days off, he is absolutely entitled.

Upon his return, Stitcher, my podcast app of choice, somehow missed that The Gist was being pushed live again, and I’m now around 10 days without having access to a daily podcast (yes, I know that I can stream it via a website, and that there are alternatives to Stitcher… I’m coming to that).

Now…who’s at fault? Or better said, who can help a brother out?

Think about the number of potential points of contact here:
  • Stitcher — the app I use
  • Slate — parent company of the Panoply network
  • ​Panoply — because maybe that’s where the podcasting experts hang out
  • The Gist — after all, that’s what’s missing here
  • Mike Pesca’s personal Twitter — he seems like a good guy who probably cares if people can hear him.
A couple tweets sent to both The Gist and Stitcher have so far gone unanswered, and a note sent to Slate’s general contact form hasn’t been returned (though, to be fair, it was sent less than 24 hours ago).

As I said earlier, it’s possible for me to stream the podcast using some other solution, but Stitcher is working for all the other podcasts I use, and porting my listening habits from one place to another seems tedious (#firstworldproblems). I’m also not going to download an app for just one podcast (#appsnob).

But again, for The Gist, I do have options.

That may not be true of other content providers. As partnerships are forged and exclusivity is brokered between content providers and content platforms, options may decrease, and the question of who to turn to for customer service may become key.

As flacks, will we one day need to include uptime stats in our client reporting? Does a site that only gets 800k uniques monthly with 99.999% uptime carry more value than a site with 950,000 uniques but only 90% uptime? (All numbers fictional.) At the very least, that's an annoying proposition to think about. But it's one that will matter if we're trying to be most effective in hitting the target audience for our clients.

Just something to ponder, right up there with many of the most mystifying questions of the digital age. In fact, on the list, it's right next to "What's a guy gotta do to listen to The Gist?"


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About the Author
Mike Bush is a PR and Marketing freelancer with more than a dozen years of experience in the field. Find him on and connect Twitter @mikebush or at www.mikebush.nyc. 
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