Google is prepping a “new news experience” to launch later in 2020 — for which the internet giant will finally directly compensate some publishers of “high-quality content” under a new licensing program.
Google’s move follows actions by antitrust regulatory groups in Australia and France calling on Google to pay for news content, as well as complaints by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp that the massive search company has profited off its intellectual property.
In addition to paying to license news content, Google also is offering to pay for free access for users to read paywalled articles on a publisher’s site, the company announced. “This will let paywalled publishers grow their audiences and open an opportunity for people to read content they might not ordinarily see,” Brad Bender, Google’s VP of product management for news, said in a blog post announcing the initiative.
“This program will help participating publishers monetize their content through an enhanced storytelling experience that lets people go deeper into more complex stories, stay informed and be exposed to a world of different issues and interests,” according to Bender.
Initially, Google has signed partnerships with Germany’s Spiegel Group (publisher of Der Spiegel), Australia’s Schwartz Media (The Saturday Paper) and Solstice Media (InQueensland and InDaily), and Brazil’s Diarios Associados.
Google didn’t reveal any partnerships with publishers in the U.S., where News Corp, whose holdings include Dow Jones (publisher of the Wall Street Journal) and the New York Post, has been especially outspoken on this issue. Facebook last year announced a similar initiative to pay news providers, with News Corp among its charter partners.
Google said it’s engaged in discussions with additional partners and plans to sign more in the coming months.
“While we’ve previously funded high-quality content, this program is a significant step forward in how we will support the creation of this kind of journalism,” Bender wrote, adding, “We have been actively working with our publisher partners on this new product, which will launch first on Google News and Discover.”
In recent years, News Corp has argued that Google has profited by commodifying content. In 2017, Google ended its default “first click free” program for subscription-based websites, a move that News Corp’s then-CEO Robert Thomson at the time called “an important first step in recognizing the value of legitimate journalism and provenance on the internet.” Meanwhile, News Corp this year launched news-aggregation site Knewz, which the company said presents content “from the widest variety of sources, free of filter bubbles and narrow-minded nonsense.”
Google, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, has provided funding to more than 5,300 local publications globally via the Google News Initiative’s “journalism emergency relief fund,” according to Bender. That includes an ad-serving fee waiver on Google Ad Manager and a $15 million fund for local news orgs. The internet giant in 2018 launched the Google News Initiative, pledging $300 million to “help build a more sustainable future for news via programs like Subscribe with Google and the Local Experiments Project,” he added.