World Association of News Publishers

How and Why We Work with Platforms.

How and Why We Work with Platforms.


WAN-IFRA applies a dual approach to supporting journalism and a free press around the world. We use advocacy to address organisational, political and structural constraints to media freedom, and we help to develop and strengthen the capacity and networks of the media by supporting our members through various projects and activities. This note reflects these two sides of our work and explains how we see our relationship with the platforms.

It is important to recognise that the big platform companies, Google and Facebook, play a central and unique role in today's information ecosystem. The relationship between media companies and platforms is complex. It is characterised by the financial challenges faced by publishers in the context of the duopoly of Facebook and Google in the advertising market. It is also challenged by the disinformation spread on social media that undermines trust in professional journalism, democracy, and foster divisions in society. At the same time, the platform companies are an important infrastructure for the distribution of news as well as a possible new source of revenue.

How and when to work with the platforms is not always an easy question and can create frictions. Indeed, our mission to protect the rights of journalists and publishers means that we have tough conversations when conflicts of interest arise between member publishers and Google or Facebook. It is, however, crucial for WAN-IFRA to find a balance that on the one hand allows critical opinions to be voiced and on the other hand finds ways of working with them to strengthen our sector.


WAN-IFRA takes a proactive role in addressing Google or Facebook when their activities hurt our core principles and the interests of our members. 

  1. We actively respond to requests by member associations or member publishers to address the role of the duopoly in our business. One example is our initiative to organise an international coalition to change Facebook's political ads policy in 2018. 
  2. We have called on Google to find a solution to the problematic change of the Incognito mode in the latest iteration of the Chrome browser. With the endorsement of 11 member associations, we have appointed a task force working to find a solution with Google to the problems generated by the latest iteration of their Chrome browser. If unresolved, the changes will severely limit access to high-quality journalism for millions of readers around the world while also making it more difficult for publishers to both gain valuable subscribers and perform in the digital advertising market.
  3. Our advocacy work includes initiatives to bring the conversation about a publishers' right to a global level at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), and the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). In a public statement, WAN-IFRA as unambiguously supported the French news publishers complaining about Google using its dominant position to enforce a mechanism that forced publishers to abandon their rights. WAN-IFRA saluted the approval of the Copyright Directive as a collective success for news publishers, and firmly believes that clear legal protection of content is essential to ensure the sustainability of journalism and the freedom of news media.
  4. Our advocacy work also includes public reports such as our Media Policy Briefing published in February 2019 shedding light on the blatant inequality in the digital taxation of tech giants around the world. It shows how current country-specific tax regimes are outdated - favouring large global tech players who conduct significant local business but have a limited physical presence. For publishers, this means they are competing on an unfair playing field with Facebook, Google and other tech players.

Supporting our members

Like hundreds of other suppliers and technology companies, Google and Facebook are members of WAN-IFRA. They do not have voting rights in our General Assembly of Members, do not sit on the WAN-IFRA Boards, and do not influence our governance or policies. Technology companies membership is intended to create the conditions for cooperation where news publishers, international institutions, tech entrepreneurs and news businesses can work together to preserve the values of a free, independent, sustainable environment for news. Their membership contribution is also an essential support to the funding and execution of our programmes.

When accepting a financial contribution from the platforms or working with them on joint projects, WAN-IFRA follows certain principles that aim to ensure its independence from the platform companies and our members editorial freedom.

We aim to share all resources and learnings with the industry, maximising the impact and helping every media company in the process.

  1. World News Day. In September 2019, we launched the World News Day with the support of the Google News Initiative. The sponsorship allowed us to partner with 40 newsrooms to celebrate, on the 28 September, the work of professional news organisations and their impact on their communities. World News Day will be marked annually. It aims to raise public awareness of the critical role that newsrooms and journalists play in providing the public with credible and reliable news and views.
  2. Table Stakes Europe. In June 2019, we announced our partnership with Google News Initiative to launch Table Stakes Europe. A transformation and coaching programme for regional and community news publishers, Table Stakes Europe uses a challenge-centric, performance-and-accountability change methodology to identify and then close shortfalls against seven core performance challenges, the "Table Stakes" ( an expression for the money needed to have a seat at the table for a poker game). The programme builds upon a successful US initiative designed and led by Doug Smith. There "Table Stakes" is a project of the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative. In its first year in Europe, Table Stakes Europe will provide an opportunity for fifteen local and regional news enterprises to identify and make significant progress in addressing their biggest current challenges.
  3. Subscriptions Lab. In April 2019, WAN-IFRA announced its partnership with Google News Initiative to launch a Subscriptions Lab in Latin America. Participating companies will participate in quantitative and qualitative market research, looking at existing and potential reader segments in an attempt to better understand the market, readers' willingness to pay, and more. The lab will evaluate participating publishers and benchmark current performance, identify short-term optimisation opportunities and recommend longer-term transformation roadmaps. The lab will provide a detailed scorecard to show how each publisher sizes up, and a dashboard for measuring ongoing progress.
  4. Media Management Accelerator. In 2019, The Google Digital Initiative finalised the last settlement to the Media Management Accelerator (MMA), WAN-IFRA's e-learning platform. The MMA provides pragmatic advice, the necessary tools and best practices in the industry for publishers taking the digital leap and exploring new digital revenues. The programme is available in English and German, and will soon to get translated into three additional languages. It provides hundreds of companies with an open, engaging platform where participants can glean insight from industry experts, share their newsroom experiences, and achieve certification in the industry's only complete digital revenue programme. In 2019, the MMA platform was shortlisted in the Best Learning and Professional Development Programme category of the UK's "Association Excellence Award".
  5. Regional Newsroom Transformation Programme. WAN-IFRA APAC has partnered with Facebook in a digital change initiative that will provide workshops, mentoring and coaching to ten, mid-sized news organisations wanting to accelerate their newsroom transformation. Each organisation will nominate an editorial and commercial manager to participate in the six-month-long programme run by George Brock and Grzegorz Piechota.

As these examples show, WAN-IFRA's position is to collaborate with big tech players in all areas where we share common interests and can benefit.

Many sources of funding reduce our reliance on any one of them

To pursue its mission, WAN-IFRA operates with the resources drawn from the income from its conferences, fundraising with public and private donors, as well as from the contribution from its member publishers, associations, and technology suppliers. WAN-IFRA is a purpose-driven and not for profit organisation driven by its members. As such, it is part of our policy to present our financial results, including the contribution of Google and Facebook, in complete transparency. The financial commitments are controlled by the Executive Board that has defined clear rules of procedure and engagement with the management when it comes to our relationship with the tech platforms. Before signing with either Google or Facebook, WAN-IFRA is committed to prospecting a wide range of donors.

While we are engaging with Google and Facebook, it is important that they do not make up a disproportionate share of our revenues. Over the years 2018 and 2019, the cumulative financial contribution of Google and Facebook did not exceed 4% of our global revenues. A level that we consider to be an appropriate contribution to avoid unwise dependence on individual contributors.

In 2019, our newly launched Table Stakes Europe programme represents a significant part of our annual executive programmes budget. The rest stems from the support to other meaningful campaigns like the World News Day, and other partnership packages to our events in Europe, Asia, South Asia and Latin America. 

By having many sources of funding, we reduce our reliance on any specific resources. One of our priorities for the coming years is to continue our efforts to diversify our funding channels, attract new members and raise funds from new donors with the support and active participation of our Board members. We will also achieve this through the vitality of our members' participation in our international events, and by maintaining and increasing our membership by engaging with new members and increase the value for existing members.

We look forward to tackling the many challenges we have together professionally and constructively. WAN-IFRA is a collaborator and a convener. It's at the heart of everything we do. That role is as crucial as ever, and there is no one standing in the wings waiting to replace us.

Thank you for supporting us on this journey.

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