Some of Australia’s most well-known digital publications are using funding from tech giants Google and Facebook to form their first industry body.
Crikey publisher Private Media, Mamamia, The Squiz and Junkee Media are among 20 publishers that are coming together to form what will be known as the Digital Publishers’ Alliance. The body will be led by Junkee’s co-founder Tim Duggan and will aim to boost visibility with advertisers, and give the publications a stronger voice on key industry issues.
“There are a lot of decisions being made right now that are going to affect future publishers over the next decade or so,” Mr Duggan said. “[Google and Facebook] are both supporting it with funding to help set it up as a really easy way to communicate to a large variety of publishers at the same time rather than having to kind of go individually to 20 or 40 different publishers to talk to about issues.”
Other members of the DPA include Future Women, Broadsheet Media, LADbible Group and Solstice Media, publisher of The New Daily, who will pay annual membership fees. Google’s News Initiative has already provided funding, while The Facebook Journalism Project is finalising its contribution. Mr Duggan assured the tech giants will have no say over the directive of the industry body and its priorities.
“There are no strings attached to the funding and that was really important for the Digital Publishing Alliance,” he said. “They believe that the strongest industry in everyone’s interest. We agree with that as well.”
Australia’s media industry has several organisations that represent it. The television sector is represented by Free TV and Think TV, the news media industry is supported by the ThinkNewsBrands. The radio sector is represented by Commercial Radio Australia and billboard advertisers are given support from the Outdoor Media Association. All these bodies operate differently; some try to grow market share from advertisers while others lobby the government on key issues. Some are more effective than others and at times the industry has debated – or questioned- their effectiveness and purpose. None of industry bodies mentioned are backed by the digital giants.
But the digital publishing sector is relatively new, and has operated on its own. And while they have preferred to remain rivals in the past – the absence of a collective body became a clear problem when the federal government announced plans to introduce a compulsory news media bargaining code.
For Australia’s largest news outlets, the introduction of the federal government’s news media bargaining code was significant; a law that would provide funding certainty and contribute to sustaining high-quality news journalism. But some small, independent publishers were concerned about the code. They worried about whether they could continue to survive, a concern that briefly became a reality when Facebook temporarily removed news from its platform to protest the proposed law.
A lot of these smaller outlets have worked with Google and Facebook for years to speak to their audiences, which typically skew younger. Some worried that the tech giants would not do deals with them after securing major contracts with News Corp Australia and Nine Entertainment Co (the owner of this masthead).