There are many ways to distribute digital content, but right now, I want to talk about two: Web and Mobile.
Web on expansion
Web is both public and private: Some content is indexable by crawlers while some are behind auth walls. Everyone who has access to the internet has access to the web (accessible). While it has a lower hurdle for acquisition, it does not provide the same level of capture as a mobile app would have.
"Remember icanhascheeseburger? What was the URL again?" -- It's easy to forget URLs of websites you don't visit often. Hopefully you can Google it again (importance of SEO).
Building on the web is great for growing your top of the funnel, from Awareness to Conversion. By making your content public, you reach a wider audience -- even if it is not something that they don't need now, it might be something that they would need in the future. You are building Mindshare.
Mobile on retention
It provides you a deeper capture on the users for as long as they have the app. You get to nudge (in-app notifications) them at almost no cost. However, it has a taller hurdle for acquisition, whatever is in the app must be valuable enough for the user to install the app (commitment); and valuable enough for the user to keep it (personal data).
There's a stigma on social apps where they access your data and sell it to others. It's at the back of all of our heads. But we install it anyway, because we want/need that app.
Getting the user to install the app is the first step (warm lead). It signals intent that they want to use/transact-with your app. The bottom portion of the marketing funnel, Transaction to Loyalty, takes play.
Both distribution channels can benefit from content play
For mobile/private-web, we can draw inspiration from Patreon (user-generated/various), Masterclass (published/educational), Netflix (published), Spotify (music/vetted), Headspace (in-house/utility).
For public/semi-public web, we can draw inspiration from Medium (user-generated/various), NYTimes (published/news), Youtube (video/user-generated), Head-Fi (user-generated/niche forum).
Great if you can build both at once, but...
Sometimes, resources are constrained and you can only build one first. Pick one goal (expansion or retention) then run with it.