News media industry collaboration jazzes me. I recently spent half my lifetime helping edit INMA’s recent report on digital platforms (and yes, you should read all 93 pages of it). That’s a topic for a different day, but the industry collaboration building around that topic feels overdue — on many topics but perhaps especially this one — and exciting. 

If you’ll indulge me with a bit of INMA insider baseball, part of my job is to tag every piece of content you see on INMA.org. That’s mostly so you can easily find it later and so our niche newsletters generate the right content mix. There’s one tag I very rarely news: News Industry Initiatives. I don’t think that reflects INMA’s content. I think it reflects the industry we’re covering. 

So I was pleased to see three such collaborative initiatives at last week’s INMA Media Innovation Week in Hamburg that caught my eye.

Danny Spears of The Ozone Project and Carsten Schwecke of Media Impact share their initiatives in Hamburg.
Danny Spears of The Ozone Project and Carsten Schwecke of Media Impact share their initiatives in Hamburg.

The Ozone Project: This joint venture between four UK’s largest publishers — The Guardian, News UK, The Telegraph, and Reach — aims to “create and pass back as much of the value generated back to the publisher,” Danny Spears, commercial and operations director, explained.

News media companies are losing revenue because of what Spears describes as a “disconnect between value creation and value they are being recognised for.” Why? Platform dominance, unhealthy relationships between publishers and vendors, publisher divisions that lack voice and influence, and data leakage. 

“We believe publishers have got to be standing together to have a chance,” Spears said in Hamburg. Working together, news media companies need to:

  • Give marketers control over the supply chain.
  • Put readers back at the center of publishers’ universe. 
  • Remove friction for marketers (friction = platforms). 
  • Harness tech effects. 

Media Impact: Chief executive officer Carsten Schwecke didn’t mince words about his company’s or the industry’s goals:  “We should combine forces to make the lives of the ‘Googles’ more difficult.”

Media Impact combines the national marketing offerings of German competitors Axel Springer and Funke Mediengruppe. The company is based on four pillars that differentiate the company from its “frenemies” — trust, traffic, tech, and solutions. 

According to Spears, enemies these days are not other news media companies but are Big Tech platforms. 

Europe Talks: So this wasn’t the most successful collaboration from a bottom line or an engagement perspective it seems, but I like the concept. Zeit Online, De Standaard, and Gazeta Wyborcza worked with 10 other news media companies to bring readers together with not-like-minded people resulting in 16,000 participants in 33 countries. 

Aleksandra Sobczak, chief of digital newsroom at Gazeta Wyborcza, discusses “Europe Talks” with the Hamburg panel.
Aleksandra Sobczak, chief of digital newsroom at Gazeta Wyborcza, discusses “Europe Talks” with the Hamburg panel.

Sebastian Horn, deputy editor-in-chief of Germany’s Zeit Online, explained how it came about: 

“It originated in our newsroom in 2017 just after (U.S. President Donald) Trump got elected and just after Brexit [was endorsed by a majority of Britons]. That idea was: Let’s introduce you to someone who thinks differently but who lives nearby.

“Early on in 2018, we were approached by media in other countries as well who said: We are facing similar polarization... . So we started building a platform, software essentially, that can be used in every country.”

While the event (which played out in 12 countries) was a success, the journalism it produced wasn’t all creators had hoped for. And maybe all the effort failed to change many minds.

Karel Verhoeven, editor-in-chief of De Standaard, described teaming up with his company’s competitor for the Belgian event. “It’s not about you competing with others on the news market… . I think now one of our tasks is to set the stage for a democratic debate.”

Horn called the 12-country event “probably the craziest idea to come out of all this… . We could have never done this alone.”

Keep watching collaborations like this — and those that develop around digital platforms. This is the kind of crazy we should all get behind.