Washington Post’s Arc publishing platform a model for LexBlog

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When Amazon built a digital department store, then competitor, Toys “R” Us licensed Amazon’s technology for the online sales of its goods. Toys “R” Us could not compete on software.

When Amazon had surplus cloud hosting capacity, Amazon created AWS for the licensing of its cloud hosting services to third parties. AWS now represents over a third of Amazon’s revenue.

When Amazon founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post, the Post, at the encouragement of Bezos to follow the AWS model, built a digital publishing platform the Post could license to third parties.

Arc Publishing, the name of the Post’s publishing platform, is now licensed to news publishers as large as Tronc, the owner of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Orlando Sentinel and Baltimore Sun. Ironically, Tronc had claimed that its technology prowess would allow it to succeed whether other news publishers failed.

It’s a nice model, develop the software platform you need to succeed and license your technology to third parties whose services exceed the scope of yours. The Washington Post does not cover Chicago and LA news. Amazon does not provide near as many services as are being delivered by companies using its AWS cloud service.

Reading Jack Marshall’s Wall Street Journal story on Tronc’s licensing Arc, I was struck by how LexBlog’s model mirrors the Post’s — obviously on a smaller scale.

For years, LexBlog ran a design and development factory shop much like other web developers and marketing agencies. Graphic designers rendered designs, which when approved by clients were reduced to PSD’s (photoshop design files), which were then developed on our platform by web developers.

Time consuming, fraught with points where mistakes could be made and it didn’t scale – the more “successful” we were in selling, the greater the problem we had in maintaining, hosting and upgrading ‘sites.’

The answer for LexBlog was to develop the publishing platform we needed to succeed – the Apple Fritter design and publishing platform.

Apple Fritter, built on WordPress core and customized WordPress software, allowed our art director to design in software on a ‘live’ site. Customers could look in if they wanted to. No developers needed. Developers work on AF upgrades (including quarterly WordPress upgrades) and new features.

Arc isn’t bare bone publishing software, it offers publishers a suite of tools. Per Marshall:

The Arc technology suite includes a range of tools designed to help publishers produce, manage, publish, host and monetize their websites and apps, in addition to offering other analytics and optimization tools.

Tronc CEO, Justin Dearborn sees Arc giving its newspapers everything they need on the software front.

This partnership will provide us with the capabilities that our reporters need to deliver award-winning journalism across all platforms and new tools that allow our marketing partners to connect with our growing digital audience.

I’ve been in DC and Chicago the last couple weeks introducing large client publishers to Apple Fritter and the ability to license our Apple Fritter as a self service design and publishing platform for their blogs, mini-sites, magazines and networks.

Apple Fritter, with its tools and features, provides client publishers all they need to publish, distribute and track their posts, articles and stories. Custom designs for various types of publications will have already been loaded by LexBlog.

As with the Post’s Arc being available to all news publishers, large and small, Apple Fritter will be available to all publishers – law firms, law schools, bar associations, legal tech companies, web development agencies, marketing companies and other organizations. Not only for publications, but also for websites.

As context, all of LexBlog’s products and add-ons are named after products at Top Pot “Hand Forged” Doughnuts, a large doughnut chain here in Seattle, that boasts of being the official doughnut of the Seattle Seahawks. Thus Apple Fritter.

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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