WAN-IFRA Roadmap for the turn of a decade

2020-02-06. Since its formation nearly 70 years ago, WAN-IFRA’s mission has been to meet the needs of its members and to act for the good of the entire industry and the society. This guiding charter will be just as relevant in the decade ahead as it was at our founding. WAN-IFRA will continue to evolve and transform to meet the challenges of an environment profoundly reshuffled by the emergence of new behaviours, new extensive systems of power, and emerging alternative threats to freedom of expression.

by Vincent Peyrègne | February 6, 2020

WAN-IFRA is the global organisation of the world’s news publishers. A not for profit member-driven association, WAN-IFRA represents more than 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites through 60 member associations, and work with over 3,000 direct corporate members (news publishers, technology entrepreneurs, and education centres) in more than 120 countries.

Our mission is to protect the rights of journalists and publishers around the world to operate independent media. We provide our members with expertise and services to innovate and prosper in a digital world and perform their crucial role in society. As such, WAN-IFRA is unique in its position as a global industry association guided by a human rights mandate to both promote media freedom and the economic independence of news media as an essential condition of that freedom.

Deriving its authority from its unrivalled global network of members and its legitimacy from its national member associations and its formal representative status at the United Nations, and other international institutions, our organisation aims at driving the global conversation that matters for the future of independent news publishing.


Successful liberal societies depend on multiple and diverse civic and social bodies, charged with purpose, that embody liberal values. WAN-IFRA is part of this dynamic.

We believe that increasing media freedom directly strengthens democracy and human rights. It is a foundation of societal development, be it economic, cultural or political. This has been our guiding charter with members for seven decades. Like our members, we believe that information produced by a free, independent and economically viable press is more than ever an essential pillar for the proper functioning of our society. We are more convinced than ever that a free press is, along with education, one of the two most important pillars of a vibrant democracy. When journalists are brought into disrepute, democracy is immediately weakened.

Members make what we do possible. Driven by our member publishers, associations and technology suppliers, we believe in solidarity in action and community commitment. Our collective pool of strengths and skills benefit each member of our community, for the good of all. Our common values bind us, as do our shared history and the valuable, trustworthy relationships between our members and our partners. We are particularly committed to empowering the voice of our business community through a representative, open and robust governance structure. For WAN-IFRA, this means constantly developing new community-minded solutions, operating rules, corporate and social responsibility guidelines that ensure a continuous adaptation to the highest level of standards.

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In 2018, we have committed to a strategic plan for diversity and inclusion. We are drawing on our leadership in Gender Equality in the media to create new opportunities to galvanise the industry to prioritise CSR objectives. This is not only an economic imperative but also a social and civic obligation. As one of the most valued partners of the industry, WAN-IFRA must serve as an example and be the vanguard of social and corporate responsibility standards.


WAN-IFRA is a leading resource for media professionals around the world, including publishers, top executive editors, chief technology officers, digital business officers, national representative associations, technology entrepreneurs, service providers, research centres. WAN-IFRA applies a “multi-stakeholder” approach that allows us to serve the needs of many different business, editorial and technology communities. Individual media companies represent 61% of our membership, technology entrepreneurs 18%, associations 13%, and affiliates including education and other institutions 8%.

Three strategic pillars drive our support to a sustainable future for the news media.

  1. 1. Protecting the rights of journalists and publishers to operate free media and promote editorial quality and professional practice is our first essential pillar.
  2. Emulating our members at all stages of development with innovative and professional services and solutions to help their businesses prosper is our second fundamental mission.
  3. We provide our members with new ideas and applied research that looks beyond what is already known, show what is possible, and facilitate the technology transition of the branch.

WAN-IFRA engages, mobilises and empowers the media industry to tackle the challenges of publishers and media professionals through activities including:

Skills and expertise to build capacity. This is drawn directly from the industry with peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, and from our brain trust of internal and external experts. Our capacity building programme including coaching, advisory and training programmes our programs are available to media professionals at all stages of development, be it in mature markets or fragile states with our media development programmes. WAN-IFRA’s advisory and coaching programmes offer cutting-edge, world-class expertise to support the transformation of the branch through customised services, masterclasses, webinars, and online education courses.

Publications and insights to provide a lucid, authoritative filter to the overwhelming flood of information about best practices and general trends in the industry. WAN-IFRA’s newslettersblogs, and reports reach an average of more than 200,000 monthly unique users worldwide;

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Global, regional and national networking and knowledge-sharing platforms to share knowledge and learn from best practices. With fifty events and forums attended annually by an average of 4,000 individual media professionals, WAN-IFRA provides unique best practices sharing and peer-to-peer networking opportunities.

Collective presence to promote a loud advocacy voice that stimulates solidarity across the sector. WAN-IFRA engages with international bodies such as the United Nations, the Council of Europe, or other global bodies like UNESCO, the Internet Governance Forum, or the World Intellectual Property Organisation. WAN-IFRA’s advocacy campaigns address organisational, political and structural constraints to media freedom. Our actions include large scale lobbying campaigns, coordinated press freedom missions, awareness-raising activities and events to strengthen legal and regulatory frameworks, reduce censorship.

WAN-IFRA develops this portfolio of activities thanks to the oversight of its Executive Board comprised of leading media professionals elected by our Supervisory Board , and the guidance of our various advisory boards. We couldn’t pull the work together without the dedication of a team of fifty staff located in our two European headquarters in Paris and Frankfurt and our three regional offices in Singapore, India and Mexico.


Since its formation nearly 70 years ago, WAN-IFRA’s mission has been to meet the needs of its members and to act for the good of the entire industry and the society. This guiding charter will be just as relevant in the decade ahead as it was at our founding. WAN-IFRA will continue to evolve and transform to meet the challenges of an environment profoundly reshuffled by the emergence of new behaviours, new extensive systems of power, and emerging alternative threats to freedom of expression.

The pressures on the press and its entire value chain give us cause to pursue our mission more determined than ever. It also generates collateral economic and societal damage that has a direct impact on WAN-IFRA’s future in the new decade. This encourages us to rethink and evolve what has been the strength of our organisation. Four guiding forces prompt our strategic priorities for the new decade.


As a not for profit organisation, WAN-IFRA is well aware that its independence and capacity of action lie in a robust economic model that ensures its financial sustainability. Being not for profit does not mean that we do not have a business model. For its part, WAN-IFRA pursues its general interest mission thanks to the income drawn from its members (publishers, associations, and technology enterprises), its conferences, and with the funds raised from public and private donors.

By having multiple sources of funding, we reduce our reliance on any one of them and secure our independence. A priority for the coming years is to continue our efforts to diversify our funding channels. Our focus is on bringing in new members, raising funds among new donors, and growing the participation in our international events. While we build our plans for the new decade, it is important that each of our financial resources does not make up a disproportionate share of our revenues. This will avoid unwise dependence on each of them. Reaching the right balance from those three main streams of income, and in particular, maintain and grow our membership base is a strategic priority for the future.

Membership is our lifeblood, and the support of our members provides us with our greatest strength. It gives value to individual members by delivering advisory services, a growing library of reports and best practices, a diverse array of conferences and study tours. It’s access to a global community of colleagues who are a significant source for innovative models and strategies. This global community also contributes to a better society where press freedom matters and journalists rights are respected.

WAN-IFRA is building upon its unique and distinctive dual approach to press freedom, applying advocacy to address organisational, political and structural constraints to media freedom on the one hand; and helping to develop and strengthen the capacity of the media through various projects and activities on the other hand. It is consistent with our mandate and legacy as an entrepreneurship-driven business organisation. WAN-IFRA has built a portfolio of signature media freedom programmes through the support from the generous Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, IREX and Open Society Foundation. The majority of these partnerships are long-term relationships. They have grown over time, thanks in part to the dedication and support of our Media Freedom Board, our member associations, and other champions drawn from WAN-IFRA’s membership base.

In recent years, we have also launched new research and innovation programmes, For the most part, these programmes have been funded through Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. We will continue this effort in the years to come, using the appeal of WAN-IFRA’s multi-disciplinary approach and comprehensive ability to provide assistance and expertise across all areas of the industry.


“The press used to be held together by the usual things that hold an industry together: similarity of methods among a relatively small and coherent group of businesses, and an inability for anyone outside that group to produce a competitive product. Those conditions no longer hold.” Our common values still bind us, but the past twenty years have seen an explosion of new tools, new techniques, new assumptions and expectations. These changes have wrecked the old clarity based essentially on the traditional comfortable advertising model. The media is rebuilding itself around new talents, new focused expertise and new expectations.

To embrace this transformation, WAN-IFRA develops its programmes on what our members want us to do for them. We define our membership value proposition following the roadmap discussed with expert communities. In addition to existing communities such as the Media Freedom Board, our Press Freedom Committees, Women in News, the World Editors Forum, the Global Alliance for Media Innovation, the Association of Association Executives, the World Printers Forum, and our three regional committees, we have formed a new forum to serve the community focused on “digital revenue”. Drawing on the strength of those essential communities, WAN-IFRA deploys regional chapters that address the need of its local communities.

There are many ways to centre a business or an organisation. You can be competitor focused, you can be product-focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused, and there are certainly more. In our view, obsessive membership focus is by far the most protective of our vitality, relevance, and sustainability. That requires us to experiment patiently, accept failures, plant seeds, and double down when we see membership delight. For the years to come, our number one priority will be to grow our membership, listen to members, and make sure we focus on the expectations of the different communities that make up the breadth of the press.


WAN-IFRA has the mission not only to deliver world-class professional services to its members but also has the mandate to raise a legitimate voice in the public debate. Now that disinformation campaigns are infecting the internet and social networks, and independent journalism is under attack in an increasing number of countries including within mature democracies, surrendering would be a catastrophe. Pushing back the dangers of growing strongman despotism, tech-based surveillance societies, and increasingly dominant players in the tech ecosystem, requires building a global dynamic and rethink our alliances.

“If news companies are, at their base, advocates for the public good, news companies must lead in securing a free society in the face of technological adventurism”.

Our interest is in facilitating publisher engagement in the global internet governance, and the web standards discussions, particularly around security, privacy and cross-site authentication in the so-called post-cookie era. Big tech companies are engaged with one another on these topics are increasingly in the position of « policing » and regulating the Internet. Still, the publishers are not participating in a meaningful and coordinated manner which leaves open the strong potential for adverse impact on publisher business models over time. Our primary goal is to make the case among our members to be more active in the decisive discussions happening in influential international fora. This includes global organisations like the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), or the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). News organisations have not tended to be active in those discussions in the past. WAN-IFRA, through its global network of news enterprises and member associations, has the legitimacy, the authority and the capacity to drive this conversation.


In 2019, WAN-IFRA introduced strategic framework highlighting three pillars that are the core of the work of the association. It clarifies the core mission of WAN-IFRA for the staff, the management, the board, the membership, and our partners. Creating a structure that supports the association is an important step. Success is when we breathe life into the structure and rededicate ourselves to the important work of WAN-IFRA. The impact and relevance of our new structure will depend on WAN-IFRA’s capacity to weight its three strategic pillars in equal measure.

No industry has a future without a pipeline of vital innovation to shape the future. We have learned from top leading news publishers that modern journalism is now driven by both journalists and by technology. It’s the melding of the two — in audience definition, targeting, and service, and in product creation and delivery — that will determine the winners ahead.

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By nature, WAN-IFRA is uniquely positioned to play a role in fostering a culture of technical innovation that enhance an indispensable reliable flood of innovation and new technologies. This is what encouraged the relaunching our programmes to foster innovation with the foundation of WAN-IFRA’s Global Alliance for Media Innovation. With GAMI, WAN-IFRA gradually rebuilt what has been traditionally one of our driving forces in the past decades. With GAMI, we provide our members with foresight innovation, experiment, show what is possible and accelerate the technology transition of the branch. There are much more opportunities ahead of us in this area.

We are excited to continue this work to promote and safeguard media freedom in a sustainable environment for news publishing. Because the well-being of each contributes to the prosperity of all, we will work in the service of each, and for the good of all.

Vincent Peyrègne

Vincent Peyrègne took up duties as Chief Executive Officer of WAN-IFRA in 2012. Prior to joining WAN-IFRA, he was Head of Development at Edipresse in Switzerland (now Tamedia) with responsibility for audience insights, editorial marketing research and product development, before joining the office of the French Ministry of Culture and Communication.

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