Google has good reason to diffuse the perception that search engines and the news industry are two worlds colliding, particularly with its launch of the 'Living Stories' prototype, which attempts to make content bedfellows of both entities - a story which in effect started almost eight years ago.
In April 2002, Google launched a new beta service called Google News, with very little fanfare. It was a simple concept - a news aggregation service that trawled the web for news stories which it displayed in a 'News' tab within its search engine and as a new type of listing in the natural search results. By January 2006 the service had launched officially. By mid-2008 it was available in more than 40 regions and more than 19 languages. For the English language it covered 4,500 sources.
The first objection from the press took place in March 2005 when Agence France-Presse (AFP) sued Google for $17.5m, alleging the search engine had violated its copyright by including AFP content on Google News without permission. This was resolved amicably in August 2007 with Google taking AFP content but not archiving it.
That same year a Belgian court ruled that Google did not have the right to display the lead paragraphs of content within its news service.
In early 2009, Microsoft released Bing News, its first stable answer to Google news. Bing works in a practically identical way to the Google service.
Later on in 2009, managing director of News International Rupert Murdoch became Google News' most vocal critic. He accused the company of 'stealing all of our copyrights' and began having talks with Bing about Microsoft paying for News International's content. It was to be a move that potentially blocked the content from Google.
On 1 December, perhaps in response to this and in an attempt to placate the media mogul, or to diffuse a snowball reaction to Murdoch's position, Google announced changes to how Google News operated. It announced it would begin to allow publishers to control how much of their content could be seen by Google News visitors before a paywall was shown requiring the user to pay the publication for the content, typically via subscription.
A few days later Google made a further concession and allowed publishers to opt-out of Google News altogether if they so wished. Much of the press considered this concession to be a win for Murdoch.
However, the latest twist, the release of Google's Living Stories prototype, frames this series of events somewhat differently. It goes some way to suggest Google might be a significant positive collaborator for news outlets looking to the future.
The Living Stories project is a collaboration with the New York Times and Washington Post that explores a new way to get news to the masses online.
The central concept is that news topics are centralised under a single URL, updating in real-time or near real-time, to reflect the development of particular issues and how the story is evolving. Whilst these pages currently live on the Google domain, they will be migrated over to the New York Times and Washington Post early next year.
Back in September, in a similar effort at innovation in online news, Google launched Fast Flip, a service designed to bring internet searches closer to the experience of flipping through a magazine or newspaper by replacing traditional search results with page impressions.
Services such as Fast Flip demonstrate Google's intention to retain a role in the delivery of online news, and the Living Stories service marks a significant collaboration between the search giant and some major heavyweights in the publishing industry. With this service Google may have found a way to bring publishers on-side by using their natural search results as a bargaining chip. It is immediately very different in substance and sentiment from the Murdoch media empire's cynicism with regards to Google and its threats to remove its content from the search engine's indeand move to a paid model.
Of course, only time will tell how this will all pan out. What is certain however is that publishers will now need to consider whether Google is still a risk to their businesses or a friend in an ever-changing media landscape.
For Google, the efficient and effective incorporation of news into the user search experience is a key objective in its wider mission "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." Within that context, both parties have something the other needs - publishers have content, Google has distribution. So surely collaboration is both good and inevitable?
Andreas Pouros is chief operating officer at search marketing agency Greenlight. He has been involved in search marketing for almost 10 years, offering guidance to brands including Monarch, Alliance & Leicester, British Gas, Vodafone, Octopus Travel and New Look, as well as a number of government bodies.