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Google Promises to Invest $1bn For News

The search engine giant Google has made an announcement that they will pay global news publishers $1bn over the next three years as well as give them more control over how Google’s products will showcase their content.

While the news has been welcomed in some areas a group of European publishers have said they feel that the announcement shows that Google is “feeling the pressure of legislation and government action designed to bring them to the negotiating table.”

In the Google News Showcase those publishers who have chosen to participate will be offered a myriad of choices for their content including timelines or related articles. There will also be the option to include audio and videos if needed.

The move is the next step in the news licensing program that had been announced earlier in the year. In the announcement Google had confirmed they would be paying for free access to articles that were behind paywalls in a bid to help the publishers grow their audiences. The initiative is designed to “help participating publishers monetise their content through an enhanced storytelling experience that lets people go deeper into more complex stories, stay informed and be exposed to a world of different issues and interests”.

Currently Google has nearly 200 publishers lined up, both regionally and nationally, although the product so far has launched only in Brazil and Germany. The popular news outlets, magazine Der Spiegel and newspaper Die Zeit have confirmed they will be committing to using the product.

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As well as the two countries mentioned, partnerships are also being made with Canada, Australia, the UK and Argentina although those involved have as yet to be announced.

Depending on the success in these six countries India, the Netherlands and Belgium are next on the list however a release date for America has not been confirmed.

Initially the story panels will be appearing on Android equipment in Google News with Apple products having the feature soon after. Finally Google Discover and Search will be allowed to have access.

Speaking about the News Showcase, Sundar Pichai – Google’s chief executive – confirmed that the product was “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.

He continued that readers would receive “more context and perspective on important stories in the news and drive high-value traffic to a publisher’s site.

“Alongside other companies, governments and civic societies, we want to play our part by helping journalism in the 21st century not just survive, but thrive.”

The move would also be a step in the right direction in generating more sustainability of news publishers around the world, a move that will help them in their bid to keep their carbon footprint at zero.

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In September the company had announced that they have invested in “high-quality carbon offsets” to clear any carbon footprint it had created since they launched in 1998. By 2007 the company had become carbon-neutral and this latest announcement means that they are heading towards running all their offices and data centers on carbon-free energy within the next ten years.

In response to the publishing investment news Robert Thomson, chief executive at News Corp said, “We applaud Google’s recognition of a premium for premium journalism and the understanding that the editorial eco-system has been dysfunctional, verging on dystopian.

“There are complex negotiations ahead but the principle and the precedent are now established.”

Meanwhile Stefan Ottlitz, head of product development at already confirmed Der Spiegel said the move highlighted the fact that Google are “serious about supporting quality journalism in Germany”.

As with all announcements not everyone was happy. Angela Mills Wade, executive director of the European Publishers Council confirmed there was a lot of cynicism surrounding the strategy.

“By launching their own product, [Google] can dictate terms and conditions, undermine legislation designed to create conditions for a fair negotiation, while claiming they are helping to fund news production.”

She continued, “It is not yet clear how ‘News Showcase’ will work for all publishers and there are questions about how it can work in tandem with publishers’ strategies to implement the EU press publishers’ rights.

“It is important that publishers have the freedom to enforce their rights directly, or participate in collective agreements negotiated under European Union law.”

Currently the publishers’ right is being negotiated between member states after it was passed into EU law and Google are in dispute with France over French Competition Authority’s demands that Google show good faith when conducting negotiations with publishers about the remuneration for any of their content. However Google has responded with claims that the regulator has failed to announce that their non-payment for content could be a serious threat to an already struggling press sector.

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