Google's Digital Initiative

Following recent accusations from the E.U that they have been unfairly distorting search results in favour of their own services, and whilst still under threat of punitive measures, Google have announced some good news for news organisations.

The Guardian reports; >‘In the new partnership with eight publishers, including the Guardian, Google is to establish a working group to focus on product development as well as providing a €150m (£107m) innovation fund over three years, alongside additional training and research. Publishers are keenest to explore the product development which Google promises will aim to “increase revenue, traffic and audience engagement”’.

Tony Danker, the Guardian’s international Head of News and Media, welcomed the Digital Initiative but pointed out that it is currently a European rather than a global initiative and believes the strategy must be ‘adopted by Google in Mountain View’ to be truly successful.

Sarah Gill at StrategyEye, tries to pin down what’s actually on offer to Google’s new news partners, who include the Financial Times, the Guardian, La Stampa in Italy, Les Echos in France, NRC Media in the Netherlands, Faz and Die Zeit in Germany and El Pais in Spain.

‘So what’s Google laying on the table here? Google says there are three main areas of focus – product development and helping publishers to increase revenues, traffic and engagement is one. The second is a significant investment in talent and research, with partnerships with Reuters news institutes and grants for digital journalism training. There will also be investment into exploration of innovation in digital news journalism, for example in making news easier to consume on mobile -an important feature as the company shifts its search algorithms to favour mobile-optimised sites. The incentive will also increase transparency from Google’s side. The injections of capital also enables publishers to experiment in finding new ways for online publishing to thrive in a digital and mobile-first world’.

She goes on to point out that it is traditional news organisations who are the target of this investment, and that it should be welcomed at a time when we see continued news of rapid expansion and massive investments in the world of new media. It will also provide investment in a European market which must compete with the dominance of the massive U.S digital companies.

Ken Doctor at NiemanLab, takes a more sceptical view of the DNI however; >‘Essentially, Europe is the squeaky wheel that Google decided to grease, with a sum that sounds large to cash-starved news publishers but is a pittance to Mountain View. It’s 0.001% of Google’s $14.4 billion profit in 2014 — much of it earned in Europe, where its search dominance is even greater than it is in North America’.

And Emily Dell of CJR takes a similar tone; >‘Google has been exploring the benefits and drawbacks of publishing for some time; being an entity protected by the First Amendment and freed from the obligations of utilities can be useful. Taking on expensive publishing risk is less convenient. However, just as the temperature of regulation in Europe heats up, with the government always trying to rein in the giant search company, Google has maneuvered its friendly tanks up the drive and into the garage of publishing houses’.