Platform Wars Rest with Data

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There was news this week (see Apple, Facebook Trade Barbs Over Privacy-Focused Business Models) that Facebooks’ advertising business will be put at risk when Apple changes its privacy settings.  In my mind this is a sign that that despite the power and dominant of multi-sided platforms and business models, it is the data that counts for more. Apple is apparently improving its consumer support for data privacy. New features, apparently rolling out this quarter, will (more easily?) give consumers the choice over the sharing of their web data. In other words, right now as I peruse websites and sources for this blog, the tracks I leave behind about me are collected and shared with numerous third parties. This tracking often confuses my wife.  She does not understand how it is that she can be searching for some new shoes on her smart phone one day and not an hour later, when clearing her inbox in her laptop, targeted advertising pops up on her machine for new shoes; maybe even from the store page she was looking at on another device. She thinks there are cameras watching her!  There might be (!), but the data she leaves behind every day provides marketers a treasure trove or web of information describing her preferences and desires. Apple is about to turn this pipe off for Facebook.  Facebook won’t be able to sell that connected data to its marketing prospects, so its value will decline. Facebook and Apple, specifically smart phones and also things like the Apple Store, have been lauded as platforms. In different ways these modern malls create scaled advantages for those those that manage them, give access to them, and capture data from them. Always in the press, they have achieved such scale and reach that politicians and social disquiet is now as common a topic to discuss about them as their marketing power. Privacy though has been a growing concern. With GDPR firmly in place in Europe, and other similar regulations now in place and being developed around the world, we are all more aware of it. Apple is , it seems, offering up something to give you, and me, the power to control at least a little bit of our digital exhaust. By allowing the consumer to explicitly approve or deny the sharing of their data, Apple is doing a good thing. But for Facebook, who typically maps that data to its own data collected about you from your travels on Facebook, it’s a wake-up call. Of course, if you like targeted shopping messages to pop up all the time, you can opt in. And that’s good too. It’s the fact that consumers have a choice that is getting more visibility and support. But it also puts everything into perspective. Many of these modern platforms are held hostage to data they use. Cut off the data and the business on those platforms, even the platforms themselves, may die. Now that is something to think about. How does your business rely on data, and do you have in place a data and analytics strategy that protects your business model, should your data sources dry up?

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