Google pledges €150m and 'more collaboration' for European publishers

Google has moved to dramatically improve its "misunderstood" relationship with publishers by investing millions and launching the Digital News Initiative, a partnership designed to support high-quality journalism.

Google pledges €150m and 'more collaboration' for European publishers
Google pledges €150m and 'more collaboration' for European publishers

Google has pledged to invest €150 million into innovation around digital journalism over the next three years, and to develop new products in collaboration with publishers aimed specifically at increasing revenue, traffic and audience engagement.

The internet giant will also "significantly increase" its investment in training and research through its News Lab team to offer dedicated training resources to European newsrooms for the first time.

The training programmes will be created with a number of journalism organisations, including the European Journalism Centre, the Global Editors Network and the International News Media Association.

Outlining plans for the Digital News Initiative at the FT Media Conference in London today, Carlo D'Asaro Biondo, Google's president of strategic partnerships, Europe, said the initiative follows "deep concern" among European publishers about their ongoing ability to fund journalism.

He said the message from several major European publishers had been loud and clear: "more collaboration".

"Over the years we have worked on a range of news-related initiatives, but we tended to work in isolation, and the feedback has been that Google can be complicated to work with, and at times unpredictable," he said.

"We intend to change that - indeed it is my job to change that."

He said Google will also invest in research into the fast changing media landscape, partnering with the Reuters Institute in Oxford to create the "deepest and most comprehensive picture" of how the consumption of news is evolving in Europe.

For 2016 the Reuters Institute Digital News Report will be expanded to cover 20 European countries - an essential guide to the changing news landscape.

A grants programme for academic institutions wishing to carry out research into the growing field of computational journalism is to be established and the Google Journalism Fellowships programme will be extended to Europe, aimed at students interested in using technology to tell stories in new and dynamic ways.

Biondo said: "In the feedback we hear from publishers and editors, it is clear that there is a great desire to experiment more freely, but risk-taking comes at a cost. The purpose of this is to make grants available to projects which demonstrate new thinking in digital journalism.

"No-one knows where the next great idea will come from - but we want to stimulate and nurture ideas that come from those who are closest to the action, from those who know best how journalism is changing. Anyone working on innovation in online news in Europe will be able to apply, including national and regional publishers, new players and pure players."

Launch partners of the Digital News Initiative are: The Guardian and The Financial Times, Die Zeit and FAZ from Germany, Les Echos from France, La Stampa from Italy, El Pais from Spain and NRC Media from the Netherlands.

However, Bionda stressed "this is not intended to be an exclusive club," with the opportunity for any European publisher, big or small, traditional or newcomer, who wishes to take part in any of the elements of the initiative welcomed.

He added: "Everyone recognises the opportunities the internet offers for the creation and dissemination of journalism. But the ‘new opportunities for growth’ remain elusive. When I talk to publishers in Europe I hear deep concern about their ongoing ability to fund great journalism.

He said it was a situation that is being "felt particularly" on the continent, suggesting the British and the Americans benefit from having the English language enabling them to build huge global audiences – "the New York Times, the Daily Mail and the Guardian have all proved this".

Google’s strategic leader went on to stress how the company’s relationship with news and the news industry has "often been misunderstood" over the years "and - dare I say it - sometimes misreported".  

Highlighting how the company has been able to help publishers, he noted that more than 10 billion visits are directed to publishers via search and news globally each month.

In addition, through advertising platforms, such as AdSense, Google shared $10 billion with publishers around the world in 2014.

He added: "We recognise that technology companies and news organisations are part of the same information ecosystem. We want to play our part in the common fight to find more sustainable models for news.

"I firmly believe that Google has always wanted to be a friend and partner to the news industry, but I also accept we’ve made some mistakes along the way. We are a teenage "tech" company after all."

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