Digital Publishing Guest Columns
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On with The Alliance: Publisher Roundtables

Following the UK launch of The Independent Publishers Alliance (The Alliance) in March of this year, its founders outline the latest developments and initiatives for the remainder of 2021.

The Independent Publishers Alliance (The Alliance) started in earnest earlier this month by hosting 3 roundtables with representatives from 14 digital publishers.

The aim was to help outline some of the discussion points and agenda for our forthcoming face-to-face events taking place over the remainder of 2021. 

During the roundtables, it became clear that our underlying assumption that each publishing business is unique is correct – not just in the platforms they use for publishing content, but also the areas where they need help; their motives, tactics, strategies and more.

That said, there is overwhelming support for an organisation like The Alliance. 

Each of the publishers we talked to echoed each other in how they felt they fitted in within the wider media industry – in short, independent publishers do not feel represented. This feeling was amplified by the fact that many industry events and much of the industry trade news is only relevant for larger publishers, not for small media businesses with limited staff.

This is something The Alliance aims to change.

We asked participating publishers for their thoughts surrounding the formation of The Alliance – how it should be set up and, crucially, how it can fulfil its goal of supporting independent publishers.

It needs to be noted, however, that The Independent Publishers Alliance will not be for everyone – the industry is too vast in scope to cover every publisher interest. To help narrow its remit and concentrate on its primary goal, The Alliance will therefore focus on publishers falling within the following parameters:

  • The publisher must be independent. 
  • The publisher must have a strong digital presence.
  • Members’ site(s) should have a minimum of 1,000,000 page impressions per month.
  • Members must be based in the UK.

There is currently no fee to join although, as the organisation grows, we may later charge a small administration fee to help us with day-to-day running costs. If The Alliance looks like something you would like to be a part of, please sign up here.

We hope that the launch of The Alliance will also inspire independent media businesses in related sectors, such as print, local newspapers, verticals, etc, to create their own organisations along a similar vein. In due course, we hope to collaborate with these and other organisations to explore wider opportunities and informal alliances.

The Roundtables – Key Findings

Participating in the roundtables were Official Charts, Message Space, AV Forums, GRV Media, Business Because, Trusted Reviews, Roadcc, NewsNow, LondonandSouthEast, NetworkN, Traffic Rich, National Rail, The Race Media and Sovrn.

Many subjects were discussed, but there were four topics that stood out as key areas for The Alliance to focus on:

  • Digital Advertising and the end of the 3rd party cookie. What should a publisher be doing now to prepare for a changing trading environment for digital advertising?
  • Reader revenue: How much are people willing to pay and how? Which publishers can charge a fee for their content? What are the strategies that have seen success to date? When does subscription fatigue hit and what solutions exist?
  • Diversification of revenue streams: How publishers can reduce their reliance on advertising.
  • Advocacy; how The Alliance can represent independent publishers and put forward their views towards the dominant platforms, the CMA and the UK Government. For example, Google Core Web Vitals, and how The Alliance can react to this development. 

These four subjects will form the core of this year’s events. The first will be held at the end of June and the second in late September 2021. The setting for each event will be informal – allowing independent publishers to network, mingle and to get to know each other away from office pressures. The aim is to encourage publishers to talk with each other, share ideas and contribute to the group at large. It was unanimous that a meeting room above a central London pub would be ideal, at least in the initial stages.

Over the coming weeks and months we shall be forming The Alliance’s board. As a not-for-profit organisation, it’s essential that publishers drive the direction of The Alliance. In addition we would like members to hold the group accountable and to apply checks and balances.

The Alliance’s web base will continue to be on here: What’s New in Publishing. There is not a better home, with an audience comprising thousands of independent publishers. We are extremely grateful to the team at WNIP and hope to build a busy and vibrant channel that will be of interest to all readers.

If you would like to become involved with the Alliance please get in touch (email: independentpublishersalliance AT gmail.com). Also if your company might be interested in supporting the group we would love to hear from you. 

Jon Westbrook, Dan Hodgson & Alex Newberry
Founders, The Independent Publisher Alliance (The Alliance)