This article explores how content when sourced from community and offered using a multi-sided platform, can be a sustainable model for creating value for all stakeholders concerned. The discussion takes into account the future interests of all internal and external stakeholders from economic, environmental and socio-cultural perspectives.
Finally the question is asked - do you agree, is content sharing a sustainable strategy that reduces risk for all stakeholders by minimising uncertainty? Personally, I think it depends on many considerations, and there will always be no right or wrong answers. If nothing else, this article may give you some ideas for consideration.
The community content sharing model
The approach is to create value by allowing partners to collaboratively share content freely.
In a community content sharing model the approach for value generation is to deliver a benefit by allowing partners to collaboratively share content freely and create value through sharing external knowledge and content sources. A feature of an open model is that partners are not able to rely and leverage on intellectual property rights as the primary means of generating revenues for content shared on the platform (1).
A multi-sided platform used with an open business model allows partners to collaborate. The key features of a multi-sided platform are that they enable direct interactions between two or more distinct sides, and that each side is affiliated with the platform (2).
On an open platform, any type of product can be offered provided that the content is shared with an open source license. Popular open source platforms include GitHub, Jira and the StackExchange (3).
There are five established and two speculative indirect business sale-value models for free and open content sharing that consisting of loss leader/market positioner; widget frosting; give away the recipe, open a restaurant; accessorising; free the future, sell the present; sell the brand; and what is now described as freemium (4).
The open model differs from a closed business model where partners in the relationship have constraints for how value is generated. An example of a different type of multi-sided closed model is the agency platform business model where it is a requirement that upstream content providers, which is evidenced by publishers and app developers that use downstream firms to choose the retail prices of their products and the downstream firms via revenue splitting (5).
Sustainable rewards from collaboration
Participation creates opportunities for competitive advantage.
As entities work together they make sense of their internal environmental strength, weaknesses, capabilities, and relationships which help to inform the analysis of external opportunities and threats. This understanding helps to create more robust strategies. Learnings from open collaboration assists to weigh up the importance and prioritisation of topics.
Participation creates opportunities for competitive advantage. When entities collaborate relationships evolve, over time these partnerships become dependencies that help to make the future of all involved more predictable, this, in turn, makes sustainable business strategy possible because of the decreases in uncertainty and increase in rationality. Learning gained from following influences can help inform the economic, socio-cultural and ecological aspects of how all involved are related to their external environment.
Sharing content helps to mitigate innovation risk.
In the case of the loss leader/market positioner model the entity offering content sacrifices revenue from the sale of the product for market share which would have had an internal cost to acquire. For a startup, establishing a market presence can take a great deal of effort and offering content for free can help improve performance through the creation of a user base. For the entity consuming the content, free resources create an economic competitive advantage because financial resources are available for other strategic pursuits.
With popularity, multi-sided platforms have the potential to scale. With the emergence of these content platforms opportunities for network effects occur that create greater value for all participants. Economic growth and employment indicators can be inferred from observation of open source platforms.
For a business to be innovative then there must be some tolerance for taking risks, use of open content assists with learning about what is occurring in a domain and in-turn helps to mitigate risk when decisions are made. Companies watching the inflow and outflow content can be informed of new opportunities, and this source of knowledge can help share with external partners both the risk and reward of innovation (6).
Teamwork helps improve the decision-making process by negating personal biases and providing a balance of logical and creative thinking.
Open development employs social-technical work practices and community networking (7), and personal motivators for involvement include altruistic; enjoyment; reputation; and economic (8). Each of these considerations presents opportunities for stakeholder sense making of internal and external environments. Teamwork helps improve the decision-making process by negating personal biases and providing a balance of logical and creative thinking.
Many of the open platforms have features that can be used to vote projects and people as important, surveys have found that over 50% of respondents said that they follow influential people and projects on GitHub to get updates, discover new projects and identify trends (9). Understanding allows dynamic relationships to evolve and assists people to learn about the irrational and unpredictable things in the marketplace. As people learn they can create and realise new strategies. Open platforms also provide opportunities for learning via direct collaboration with external stakeholders and identifying specialists with industry-specific knowledge (10).
Open sourced content allows the business to save money which in turn provides opportunities for best practice of resource stewardship.
Business is always concerned to manage reputation and risk. From an economic point of view participation in open sourced content allows the business to save money which in turn provides opportunities for best practice of resource stewardship. Of interest is the OpenStack project which aims at helping cloud providers reduce their data centres total power consumption and is a practical application of how open source collaboration can have a positive impact on the environment (11).
Honesty is always the best policy.
When compared to closed or proprietary platforms, open projects provides a higher level of transparency which should always be an important consideration when making strategic decisions. A feature of an open community collaboration project is that many people are reviewing the project which is described (12) as “Given a large enough beta-tester and co-developer base, almost every problem will be characterised quickly and the fix obvious to someone. Or, less formally, Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.” In recommendations to the financial industry after the global financial crisis suggested the use open source content to allow the banking industry to self-regulate, mitigate information gaps, and allow scrutiny of risk management models for competitive advantage (13).
Honesty is always the best policy, participation in open projects reveals past actions and interests, and assists with resourcing decisions for human capital within the business. For example, investigations have found that there is a case to develop an Open Source Resume (OSR) tool based on actual data provided to GitHub which would help to alleviate issues that may be caused by candidates providing fake programming skills or project experience on their resumes (14).
The aim of this article is to discuss embracing sustainable value generation with content sharing, and has touched on some of the considerations for why people are motivated to participate. references available on request.