TMS Syndrome & Open Platform: Never mind the contradiction, feel the width

Emily Bell, director of digital content at the Guardian, has had an interesting week. On Monday, Bell kicked things off by heralding the end of what she calls TMS Syndrome.

TMS stands for Too Much Stuff. This is the compulsion to ‘create more in all formats’that has haunted publishers for the past decade. 

TMS Syndrome has been fuelled, in Bell’s words, by a ‘seemingly ever-expanding pool of advertising opportunities”, most of them digital.

But now ad revenues are collapsing. Accordingly, Bell reckons we need some ‘quantative tightening”. Specifically, we must stop force-feeding content to an audience that ‘can’t digest it”. We must also enforce ‘a narrowing at one end of the distribution pipe – the creation end”.

Of course, as Bell suggests, this will prove to be ‘incredibly painful’and ‘extremely expensive”.

Hard to argue against that. But less than 24 hours after her column appeared in print, Bell was partaking in the Guardian’s launch of Open Platform.

This raised a few eyebrows.

Why? Because Open Platform isn’t about narrowing the pipe. It’s about doing the opposite.

Open Platform is all about harnessing the expertise of third party developers to develop new ways of using, displaying and combining the Guardian’s content.

Open Platform is genuinely innovative. It has the potential to become hugely significant. But can you spot the presence of TMS Syndrome?

Of course: it’s right there in the Guardian‘s stated ambition to ‘weave [its content] into the fabric of the internet”.

Myself, I’m not bothered one bit by the apparent contradiction between column and launch.

If the Guardian gets it right, the problem confronted by everyone else won’t be Too Much Stuff. It’ll be Too Little Innovation.

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