Warning: If Your Business Depends on a Platform, You Don’t Have a Business
There’s a considerable amount of well warranted concern over the increase in the amount of account suspensions at Twitter and deplatforming/demonetization at YouTube. Under the excuse of going after soi-disant right wing conspiracy theory, plenty of content on the other end of the spectrum is being removed…apparently for the sin of doing a good job of covering and calling out the right wing! The latest of many examples:
Attention @PamelaBrownCNN: the videographer you interviewed a few weeks ago, @JonFarinaPhoto, has had his footage taken down by @TeamYouTube. Yes, the same footage you interviewed him about. Does your network care? https://t.co/on6uVf5GoL https://t.co/CgEj5s5AsK
— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) February 4, 2021
I am not going to dispute the injustice of situations like this. However, we live in a world where powerful interests feel freer than ever to flex their muscles. And whether out of malice or inattention, it’s too easy to wind up the loser.
We were lucky enough to find out the hard way, early on (one of my owns sayings is “Sometimes bad luck is good luck.”). I’d only been blogging a bit over a year and was invited to the Milken conference, which was April 2008. At that point, everyone still assumed I was a man, which amused me enormously, and I was conflicted about outing myself. But I decided to go, particularly because I wanted to hang with some of the other invitees on the blogger panel (Felix Salmon and Mark Thoma).
Just before I was set to go, Google took down the site, which it was hosting on its free service, Blogger, as a spam blog. It was clear that it would take two to three weeks through the normal process to get the site back up. I was hysterical, because here I was about to get a star turn as a blogger and no one would be able to find my work.
Luckily I was friendly with technology writer turned management guru Michael Schrage. Michael was so gracious as to contact his brother, Eliot Schrage, who was then Vice President of Global Communications and Public Relations. Naked Capitalism was back up in 24 hours. But how many people who are similarly screwed have the good fortune to have a C-suite connection at Google?
I realized I could not have my site hosted by a big hermetic company, even worse for free, since they have no service obligation to me. So even though the site was generating only modest revenues from Google Adsense, I moved it to a private host. The layout you see now is a modest rework from the its original Blogger template, Simple.
So you’ve been warned: if your business depends on a platform, you don’t have a business. I am simply gobsmacked that writers with the huuge reputations and followings like Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi don’t have their own sites. Whatever functionality Substack offers (and it appears the main one is ease of setting up/monetizing mailing lists), it can’t be that hard or costly to reverse engineer, particularly if a few people got together to fund the development of a plug-in or plug-ins that could also be monetized.