INMA creates publisher playbook for Big Tech platform relationships

By Dawn McMullan


Dallas, Texas, USA


The relationships between news publishers and Big Tech platforms in rebuilding the business of journalism require a new focus on solutions ranging from direct dialogue to collective bargaining to changes in the law, according to a report released today by the INMA. 

The report, by Australian media veteran Robert Whitehead, compiles a study of global media executives on six continents and interviews with 45 media, Big Tech, and regulatory experts.
The report, by Australian media veteran Robert Whitehead, compiles a study of global media executives on six continents and interviews with 45 media, Big Tech, and regulatory experts.

“How To Decode the Publisher-Platform Relationship” is a comprehensive report that tracks four key issues: 

  • Publisher sentiments about platforms: Surveys the views of news publishers worldwide about their relationships with Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon.
  • Legal and regulatory ecosystem for platforms: Connects the dots on the fast-emerging legal and regulatory landscape internationally. 
  • Publisher-platform issues and potential solutions: Prioritises publisher-platform issues and potential solutions such as copyright/news aggregation, privacy/consumer data, tax status, fake news and fake ads, unbiased prominence for quality subscription content, the platform news tax, and ad tech dominance.
  • Publisher playbook: Creates a first-draft publisher playbook for how to strategically position the leading platforms in reader relationships, premiumisation of audiences, using local industry alliances, reselling platform solutions, acquiring users through platforms, lobbying guidance, and monitoring legal breakthroughs.

The report is part of the Digital Platform Initiative by INMA that aims to assist and empower publishers in dealing with the threats to financial sustainability accelerated by the rise of Big Tech platforms. The initiative distills the complex issues facing the news industry as a result of digital platforms.

“How To Decode the Publisher-Platform Relationship” comes at a pivotal moment. Evolving tensions surrounding the broad intertwining of the Big Tech platforms in the business model of news publishers are creating intense pressure points for legal relief and direct discussions. How publishers prioritise and distill that broad landscape is the key objective of the new INMA report.

Written by Australian media veteran Robert Whitehead, the INMA report emphasises four key issues between the “unavoidable business partners:” 

  • Privacy and data control. 
  • News aggregation. 
  • Algorithms downplaying quality and subscription journalism. 
  • Market power over monetisation of news media. 

The INMA report is based on interviews with 45 media leaders, regulators, and current and former executives of digital platforms. The report overlays publisher concerns on six continents with major regulatory developments in Australia, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Because of the global nature of the platforms, a regulatory development in one region can impact the publisher-platform ecosystem in all other regions — making the linkage that INMA achieves in this report all the more important. 

If one theme ties together these regulatory developments, it is the impact of platforms on the business of journalism, according to the report. Once the purview of lobbyists on the side of the news business, Big Tech’s ubiquity has made regulatory issues central to the strategy and everyday operations of publishers.

Distilling interviews and regulatory developments, INMA puts forward a potential publisher playbook:

  • Be the premium reader destination: Prioritise your digital network as the primary reader destination, which encourages direct relationships, incentives to build a premium audience, and high-quality data.
  • Stay connected with Big Tech developments: Make certain someone at your company is following the myriad of developments among Big Tech platforms from lobbying, opportunity, and best practice perspectives.
  • Engage with platforms: Keep working with and engaging with Facebook, Google, Apple, and others. While this is a complex feat, the companies offer access to expertise and revenue that are unquestioned.

For all of the pain points in the relationship between publishers and platforms, the INMA reports envisions a road map in which issues can be resolved one by one. 

“How To Decode the Publisher-Platform Relationship” is available for free to INMA members and available to non-members for US$795 — which includes one year of association membership, all strategic reports, Webinars, and access to all INMA content and peer connection tools.

INMA members may download the report and non-members may order the report by going to

About Dawn McMullan

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