For the last several years, Google, along with Facebook, has been frequently criticized for collecting much of the advertising revenue that has traditionally gone to media outlets, therefore putting the survival of such outlets into question.
This week, Google has announced what it calls a big step in helping to reverse that trend.
Back in 2018, Google parent company Alphabet launched the Google News Initiative, which had the dual mandate, per CNBC, of helping publishers to earn money, and to “fight false news.” The former plan was to “offer publications another monetization model online called Subscribe with Google.” Google later announced initiatives that include emergency funding for local news outlets hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.
On Thursday, Google announced that it is making “a $1 billion investment in partnerships with news publishers and the future of news.”
In the announcement, which came in a blog post by Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, explained that Google “will pay publishers to create and curate high-quality content for a different kind of online news experience.”
It’s part of the introduction of a new product called Google News Showcase which, per Pichai, “features the editorial curation of award-winning newsrooms to give readers more insight on the stories that matter, and in the process, helps publishers develop deeper relationships with their audiences.”
The Showcase will be shown in panels on Google News, initially on Android, and eventually iOS and later Discover and Search. The company has reached agreement with nearly 200 publishers in Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, the U.K. and Australia, although there has been no announcement of any such deal in the United States. Per CNN, Google has not yet said when they might launch such deals in America.
“This approach is distinct from our other news products because it leans on the editorial choices individual publishers make about which stories to show readers and how to present them. It will start rolling out today to readers in Brazil and Germany, and will expand to other countries in the coming months where local frameworks support these partnerships,” Pichai said.
There was some skepticism about the deal.
“This Google news is going to be a win for a handful of already leading publishers, and a finger in the eye of everyone else IMO,” Matthew Ingram, of the Columbia Journalism Review, tweeted in reaction to the news. A DigiDay overview, meanwhile, found publishers “wary” of the news.
“I imagine [Google] will retain the clause to prevent publishers from participating in collective agreements negotiated under the publisher’s right,” Angela Mills Wade, executive director of the European Publishers Council, told that publication. “Which is quite extraordinary, given that this is a right under the law. Meanwhile, it is very unclear how this affects publishers that do not participate.”
News reports this week stated that a Department of Justice antitrust suit against Google is likely imminent.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.