With less ability to charge for distribution, on their own channels or others, and a growing dependence on margin-squeezing outside platforms, publishers may be left to compete with creative agencies on their turf. Publishers becoming ad agencies, in other words, means competing not just with one another, but with the agencies that already exist.

In this nascent new order, competitors are defined largely by their limitations. While the terms and prices that publishers can accept from advertisers are set by the need to support a connected news or entertainment organization — the reason they chose this controversial path in the first place — conventional agencies are hampered by a dependence on lucrative TV work, from which they are accustomed to low volumes and high margins.