A group of independent digital publications will use funding from Google and Facebook to form an industry body to give publications a stronger voice on key industry issues.
The Digital Publishers’ Alliance (DPA) will be led by youth publication Junkee’s co-founder Tim Duggan and will comprise Junkee Media, Crikey publisher Private Media, Mamamia, and The Squiz among others, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
The body will also aim to collectively boost visibility with advertisers.
Duggan told The Sydney Morning Herald he wanted the group to give more power to publishers during a period of flux that had tested digital media’s relationship with social media platforms as a means of connecting with an audience.
“There are a lot of decisions being made right now that are going to affect future publishers over the next decade or so,” Duggan said.
He added that the media companies involved wanted to take advantage of funding from Google and Facebook to set up an industry body that would enable them to communicate directly and advocate for the sector with a single voice, “rather than having to kind of go individually to 20 or 40 different publishers to talk to about issues.”
Other media companies that have joined the DPA include Future Women, Broadsheet Media, LADbible Group and Solstice Media, publisher of The New Daily, who will pay annual membership fees.
However he reiterated that the tech giants would have no say over the priorities or decision-making of the industry body.
“There are no strings attached to the funding and that was really important for the Digital Publishing Alliance,” Duggan said.
“They believe that the strongest industry is in everyone’s interest. We agree with that as well.”
The DPA said its initial priority will be speaking to advertisers and media buyers, with the aim of growing its share of the advertising market.
But there will be other pressing issues it will tackle, including a judgement this week that media outlets are legally responsible as “publishers” for third parti’ comments on their Facebook pages.
While the Australian media industry has several organisations that represent it across television and radio, the digital publishing sector is relatively new and has until now operated on its own.
However the absence of a collective body was exposed as an issue when the federal government announced plans to introduce a compulsory news media bargaining code earlier this year.
The code compels Facebook and search giant Google to enter into agreements with Australian news organisations to remunerate them for journalism shared on their platforms.
The introduction of the code gave larger Australian media organisations funding certainty that would help contribute to sustaining high-quality news journalism.
For smaller independent publishers, the code introduced uncertainty about how they would be able to take advantage of the opportunity to make deals to compel tech giants like Google and Facebook to pay for news — particularly following Facebook’s move to temporarily remove news from its platform to protest the proposed law in February this year.
Duggan said the news media bargaining code brought the need for a new industry body “into extra sharp focus.”
“When the code was being written — and the two years leading up to it — every independent digital publisher was dealing with themselves. That was a moment when I realised that there is more power when people can come together and negotiate collectively.”
In June last year The NSW Court of Appeal ruled that news outlets including The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian were liable as publishers of readers’ Facebook comments about former Northern Territory youth detainee Dylan Voller because they facilitated the comments by setting up and posting on public Facebook pages.
Duggan said the case was an example of the kinds of issues that will continue to collectively affect all digital publishers.
“Until the DPA came along, each publisher would have to figure out what that meant themselves,” he said, adding that now “we can collectively talk about it and get information.”
“Facebook, for example, last week, provided information to publishers on the best ways that publishers could moderate their content.
“The DPA is a great vehicle to disseminate that information for publishers and then the next time part of that is making sure that everyone is across it and if there is another avenue to ensure that this is fair for digital publishers.”