Google announced a new programme called the Digital News Initiative in Europe to promote collaboration between technology companies and the media industry this week.
The internet giant has always “wanted to be a friend and a partner” of the news industry, said Carlo D’Asaro Biondo, president EMEA, strategic relationships, speaking at FT Digital Media this morning.
He admitted Google “made some mistakes along the way” in its relationship with news outlets, but also explained that technology can provide significant opportunities for the news industry.
“I think we didn’t listen enough,” he said addressing criticism from the publishing industry towards Google News and towards the ways Google’s algorithm can favour certain publishers over others.
The Digital News Initiative is an attempt to stop working “in isolation” as Google partners with European publishers including the FT and the Guardian in the UK, La Stampa in Italy or El Pais in Spain among others.
One part of the initiative is a collaboration on product development, with the aim to increase revenue, traffic and audience engagement, explained Biondo.
Another is to invest in research, and a partnership with the Reuters Institute of Journalism in Oxford will see the organisation’s digital news report cover 20 European countries in 2016.
A grant fund of 150m euros will be made available for innovative projects, as Biondo said he has seen a desire to experiment more freely in the industry and to look at the long term, but risk-taking comes at a cost.
A French version of the initiative has resulted in 50 projects funded so far – including a mobile-first push at Le Monde with a new offering for tablets.
The partnership is also extended to journalism organisations who play a role in innovation like the European Journalism Centre, Global Editors Network and the International News Media Association.
The Digital News Initiative was set up in Europe as the news industry here is facing challenges not present in the English-speaking market, he explained.
The “fragmentation of countries and the geographical situation” is one reason why fewer digital companies grow online in Europe.
Biondo said the move is not about Google “trying to reinvent journalism”, as that is neither Google’s responsibility or aim – and the company has no plans to commission news.
“[But] I’m convinced that we could achieve much more if journalism and technology work together,“ he said.
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