Google announces support for high-quality journalism through its new product, the News Showcase.
There’s no doubt that journalism has been struggling over the past few years. With the decline in demand for newspapers and the rise of fake news and propaganda, the profession is facing really tough times.
So in a move to bolster the field, Google announced that they allotted $1 billion to pay for licensing of news articles over the next three years. Doing so will establish the Google News Showcase which aims to curate and support high-quality journalism.
Announced by Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai in a blog post on October 1, 2020, this move is Google’s biggest financial commitment to the news industry. For years, news companies like News Corp and Axel Media have been asking Google to pay them without any positive results. As News Corp Chief Executive Robert Thomson puts it, this announcement marks the company’s recognition of “premium for premium journalism” and the fact that the “editorial ecosystem has been dysfunctional, verging on dystopian.”
Google News Showcase is poised to be rolled out in Brazil and Germany initially but other countries will eventually follow. Media companies like Brazil’s Folha de S.Paulo and Germany’s Der Spiegel and Die Zeit are already on board in the program.
What to Expect from Google News Showcase
Google’s VP of product management for news Brad Bender said that the brand’s approach for the new feature is very different from a product standpoint. They aim to connect readers to stories that matter and to make money from the content in more ways. Doing so shows great promise of sustainability and can better promote quality journalism.
New Showcase will have several features that will guide readers to top-notch content and direct traffic to participating publishers’ websites. The primary feature will be the ‘panels’ which will allow publishers to provide more information at a glance to readers. Compared to how news bits are presented now on Google, these panels will include more context as it will allow publishers to include bullets, timelines, and even related articles in a single panel. The ability to add videos and audios are planned.
This new product will first be launched in Android and then iOS later. Users can find it in the Google News section and then in Discover and Search after a while. Feed customization will be allowed for users which will let them follow their chosen publishers. This provides greater convenience to users and will provide excellent visibility for publishers.
Another notable thing about the News Showcase is that it intends to give free access to select paywalled articles that are created by their partner publishers. This makes information more accessible and may even help convert visits into subscriptions for the publishers.
The curation process of the News Showcase varies greatly from Google Search or News. While Google’s algorithms have been tweaked in order to elevate quality reporting by removing human judgment in the process, this new product uses a different way to present information to users. It will rely more on the editorial choices of the partner publishers, offering a diverse array of news bits. The panels will still use the same algorithms used in News and Search but the publishers will have the final say in what they want to be featured.
Google is selecting partner publishers on a per-country basis. Bender says that this is because a critical mass of publisher content is required in order to launch in a country. They will then prioritize news agencies with established audiences and serve local communities.
How Publishers will Benefit from Google News Showcase
Aside from the financing and the visibility boost they’ll get from the internet behemoth, there are more ways how publishers can win from this new Google product. For starters, the panel design features the promotion of the publisher’s brand. This can help better recall and recognition among readers which can lead to better engagement and subscriptions.
Previously, most news outfits complained that Google tends to minimize their brands aside from stealing their revenue. Google is now addressing this problem by linking the panel to the publishers’ sites, allowing them to fully monetize the traffic. As for the insights, anonymized data will be shared by Google with the publishers.
Many media agencies are hopeful of the potential of the News Showcase. For some, it can give them the necessary push to expand their digital presence. Others are looking forward to using the increase in revenue to produce more content. They also like the fact that they have control over what they can highlight, giving them power over algorithms.
A Promising Start
For years, news content creators have been demanding giants like Google and Facebook to pay publishers for their work to no avail. Both companies have generated billions of dollars in revenue from news articles produced by media agencies so it makes sense for the smaller players to ask for what is due to them. Especially in these trying times where high-quality journalism is necessary while the media outfits struggle to survive, it’s crucial that their services are duly compensated.
Hopefully, Google News Showcase becomes the precedent for other internet giants to license their news content and compensate news outfits properly. According to Google, they have already signed over 200 publishers in Brazil, Germany, Canada, UK, Argentina, and Australia so users can expect the product to roll out in these countries in the near future.