Who has more power in the media business, celebrities or platforms?

Edited excerpt from ReCode to Vox by Bob Lefsetz:

Just because you’re a star don’t think you’re bigger than the enterprise. When the world is wild and woolly, new and exciting, pioneers fight it out for eventual dominance. But once the landscape starts to coalesce — pick another venue!

ReCode had the best tech news in the business. Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher built a team of experts. But nobody cared, nobody went to the site, they thought their minions would follow them but it turned out they were aligned more with the Wall Street Journal, their former home, than with the writers themselves. It’s kind of like when the lead singer leaves the band… good luck! Sure, there are exceptions, but… But now you can’t even find the new sites, you can’t get the word out. Furthermore, the Journal hired Joanna Stern, a cheeky tech writer who is not as good as Mossberg but oozes personality, and Geoffrey Fowler, who’s technically sound, albeit dry. Turns out we don’t need THE expert as much as AN expert. (And the Times got Farhad Manjoo, who in his own way is just as good as Pogue.)

So if you’re starting something new — by all means go for it, it’s the essence of Silicon Valley. But if you’re an individual star, chafing under the reins of your boss, believing you can go it alone… You probably cannot. Especially if the world you live in is solidified.

Notes:
(1) Platforms have power because (i) it’s hard to build traffic from scratch, and (ii) they benefit from network effects.
(2) The power of a platform rises with the number of content creators on the platform. This is why crowdsourced platforms like Seeking Alpha are usually more powerful than platforms with salaried content creators.

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