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Language Arts & Disciplines Communication Studies

The Power of Platforms

Shaping Media and Society

by (author) Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

edited by Sarah Anne Ganter

Oxford University Press
Initial publish date
May 2022
Communication Studies
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    May 2022
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    May 2022
    List Price

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More people today get news via Facebook and Google than from any news organization in history, and smaller platforms like Twitter serve news to more users than all but the biggest media companies. In The Power of Platforms, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen and Sarah Anne Ganter draw on original interviews and other qualitative evidence to analyze the "platform power" that a few technology companies have come to exercise in public life, the reservations publishers have about platforms, as well as the reasons why publishers often embrace them nonetheless.

Nielsen and Ganter trace how relations between publishers and platforms have evolved across the United States, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. They identify the new, distinct relational and generative forms of power that platforms exercise as people increasingly rely on them to find and access news. Most of the news content we rely on is still produced by journalists working for news organizations, but Nielsen and Ganter chronicle rapid change in the ways in which we discover news, how it is distributed, where decisions are made on what to display (and what not), and in who profits from these flows of information. By examining the different ways publishers have responded to these changes and how various platform companies have in turn handled the increasingly important and controversial role they play in society, The Power of Platforms draws out the implications of a fundamental feature of the contemporary world that we all need to understand: previously powerful and relatively independent institutions like the news media are increasingly in a position similar to that of ordinary individual users, simultaneously empowered by and dependent upon a small number of centrally placed and powerful platforms.

About the authors

Contributor Notes

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen is Director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and Professor of Political Communication at the University of Oxford. His research is focused on the changing role of news and media in our societies. He has written extensively about journalism, digital media, the business of news, political communication, and related topics in dozens of scholarly articles, edited volumes, and books, including Ground Wars: Personalized Communication in Political Campaigns. He is also the co-author of the annual Reuters Institute Digital News Report, and has provided expert advice to both governments and news media companies in several countries. His work has been covered by a wide variety of media all over the world, and he has written for El País, The Indian Express, The Washington Post, and several other publications.

Sarah Anne Ganter is Assistant Professor of Communication and Cultural Policy in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. She has published widely on media governance, digital policy and regulation, and journalism, and analyzes media and digital policy transformations from a theoretical perspective that focuses on the dynamics and interactions shaping institutional fields. Her work is published in scholarly journals, international book projects, and featured in various media outlets such as ABC Radio Australia,, The Hill Times, The National Post, The Seattle Times, and Tilt- UOL. Her co-edited book, Media Governance: A Cosmopolitan Critique, is forthcoming with Palgrave MacMillan.

Editorial Reviews

"The power of corporate platforms on the distribution and consumption of news is unprecedented. Nielsen and Ganter's book is an exceptional, thought-provoking analysis of the intricate relationships between platform mechanisms and news publishing. This is truly a must-read for any student of media who wants to understand the controlling role of digital intermediaries. No academic of journalism and media studies can afford to miss out on this valuable treatise of how the business of news production has transformed in recent years and what is at stake for the public sphere."

_- José van Dijck, Utrecht University, and author of The Culture of Connectivity and The Platform Society

"Whatever your view of whether governments and societies should break up digital platforms, you'll agree that platform power is real. Nielsen and Ganter's book provides the most clear-sighted account yet of how platform power is reconfiguring news publishing. They offer a historically detailed, conceptually precise, and institutionally sensitive account of the deeply asymmetrical relations in which both platforms and publishers are today locked. Essential reading for those who still care about information's role in politics."

--Nick Couldry, London School of Economics and Political Science

"Even for those of us who study media and tech for a living, it's increasingly difficult to comprehend the last ten years of seismic disruption to the way the public discovers, consumes, and shares information. The Power of Platforms is an important book that brings welcome coherence and insight into the symbiotic and increasingly asymmetrical relationship between news publisher and platforms, how it has upended the media environment, and is transforming societies."

--Vivian Schiller, The Aspen Institute