Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Google unveils its News Initiative, with tools for subscriptions, security and fighting fake news

Google today announced a multi-pronged News Initiative, which Chief Business Officer Phillipp Schindler described as a way to bring together all of the company’s efforts to work with the journalism industry.

Google says the News Initiative is focused on three broad goals — strengthening quality journalism, evolving business models and empowering newsrooms through technological innovation. It’s also committing to spending $300 million over the next three years to reach these goals.

At a New York City press event, Schindler told journalists and other industry attendees, “Our mission is inherently tied to your business.” Schindler acknowledged that this might sound like it’s “just big company rhetoric.” To put it less diplomatically, news organizations might not view Google (or the other big Internet platforms) all that positively given its dominance of the online ad business and any role in may have paid in spreading misinformation and hoaxes.

However, Schindler said Google has “two clear business incentives” to support high quality journalism.

First, he said Google search “by its very nature depends on the open web and depends on open access to information and that obviously depends on high quality information.” Secondly, he noted that Google’s DoubleClick ad business is all about splitting revenue with publishers, with $12.6 billion paid out to partners last year.

“The economics are very clear: If you do not grow, we do not grow,” Schindler said.

Again, the initiative sounds like a mix of projects and products old and new, in several different categories. When it comes to strengthening quality journalism, Schindler said Google has been adjusting its algorithms to highlight “more authoritative sources.”

He also announced a partnership with the Harvard Kennedy School’s First Draft to launch something called the Disinfo Lab, which will “use computational tools and journalistic oversight monitor misinformation during elections.” And there’s a separate project called MediaWise, a partnership with the Poynter Institute, Stanford University and the Local Media Association to help younger people become savvier in their consumption digital media.

As for business models, Google is launching Subscribe with Google, which will allow readers to sign up for paid subscriptions with partner publishers, all with a single click.. That also means that as long as readers are signed in to their Google account, they don’t have to deal with paywalls and logins on the news sites that they’ve already subscribed to.

And on the tech front, Google pointed to Accelerated Mobile Pages, its open source format for fast-loading story, which it’s expanding with a new story format for image-, video- and animation-heavy content. It’s also launching Outline, an open source tool for newsrooms to set up their own VPN on a private server.

This is a developing story and will be updated as Google’s event unfolds.