The wars deciding control over global information flows are starting to heat up. Facebook has taken to "fact checking" information shared, even clearly comedic memes. YouTube disallows content that disagrees with the World Health Organization. Podcasting giant Joe Rogan signed an exclusivity deal with Spotify in an alleged move away from platforms like YouTube which prevent him from featuring certain guests representing controversial viewpoints.
There's a great media shakeup coming on the horizon, and like any true shift or conflict, it will hurt many while benefiting others. These are a few of the biggest groups of winners and losers we can expect to see in the coming years.
1: Censorship-free content platforms
Without a doubt, the biggest winners will be whichever platforms manage to serve the market most completely by providing a home for all the best content that consumers want. This includes, of course, controversial content which has been subjected to censorship elsewhere. Entrepreneurs who notice a crying need will attempt to capitalize on it by taking great risk and employing great ingenuity to solve this key problem. Those who are successful will be rewarded handsomely, and seeing the evergreen demand for free speech, you can bet that the permissive content platforms of tomorrow will create quite a bit of wealth.
2: Content creators successfully leveraging persecuted status
Being targeted and silenced by the very platform you use to make a living is a terrible misfortune. Unless it isn't. An otherwise unremarkable (or simply undiscovered) voice can successfully leverage persecution in order to rise above the rest and grow their audience. Become a symbol of a great injustice and you can skyrocket in the rankings, especially if you lead the faithful on an exodus from the old platforms to a new promised land like some kind of digital Moses.
3: Non-controversial creators closely watching their edgy peers
While the character mentioned above endures risk and hardship, not everyone standing to benefit from a shift to free speech platforms is necessarily in that same position. Some creators remain perfectly safe and in the good graces of their digital masters, but nonetheless closely watch what their riskier peers are doing, quietly joining alternative communities when they determine that's the way the wind is blowing. Sure, even some of the nicest, most wholesome voices may someday end up being silenced anyway, and thus be forced to exit their old content homes. But even those running absolutely no risk of being deplatformed can still see a shift in global audiences towards more permissive venues for speech, and add their quieter voices to the mix.
1: Censored platforms
This one is pretty self-explanatory: the tech giants like YouTube and Facebook will lose market share. At first this is only in the key affected demographics, but eventually enough non-controversial creators will get caught up in the unforgiving net of censorship, and they and their followers will look elsewhere. By the time the platforms take notice that their heart and soul has left for greener pastures, it will be too late as other platforms will have become the new and "cool" places to frequent. Once that social shift has happened, it's all but impossible to reverse it, leaving old platforms to join the Google+ and MySpaces of the world.
2: Creators hanging on to mainstream platforms too long
I see this all too often. Creators start to see the writing on the wall, but for whatever reason hold on to their old homes for far too long. Maybe they're naïve and believe that censorship storms will come and go. Maybe they're so invested and reliant in the old platforms that they don't want to divert any of their audience somewhere else for fear of falling behind. Whatever the reason, they fail to make the calculated decision to start investing in a better home for their work, and invariably get left behind on a metaphorical sinking boat. I've even seen creators who are actively being demonetized or censored continue to promote their channels on those same platforms, completely neglecting to promote their decentralized alternatives. At some point it may be too late to switch over and save their audiences.
3: Creators rage-quitting too early or to the wrong platform
On the other hand, jumping ship too soon can also be a huge mistake. If a creator declares that they've had enough of the censorship and completely abandons the largest platform in favor for a new decentralized alternative, they risk losing almost all their audience if unsuccessful. They also get caught in the tough spot of either sticking with their decision and fading into obscurity in the process, or sheepishly returning to the old platform minus a sizable chunk of credibility. The timing, and the choice of alternative content platform, must be just right.
4: Platforms or creators who lose focus on making a great product
Offering an alternative to censorship can buy an immense amount of goodwill. But it can't buy a pass for making a lousy product. The content giants of today got to where they are because of a relentless pursuit of a great experience for users. Any alternative worth its salt must at a minimum approach, if not equal or exceed, the experience for both creator and user of the service that it seeks to replace. Don't mistake the pro-free speech market signal for a sign that people actually like your product, or you could sink money into building something that no one wants to use unless they have no other option.
You owe it to your philosophy to study how to win. Learn how to become a winner after the dust of the censorship wars has settled.
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