Google has had a difficult relationship with publishers in many European countries over the use of headlines and snippets of news stories on Google News. Although the Internet giant has usually come out on top after the inevitable power struggle, European regulators aren’t to fond of its stranglehold on the industry. It’s time to start building bridges.
To that end today Google announced it will give €150 million (US$163 million) to European publishers and digital journalism startups over the next three years as part of an effort to make peace with the news sector. Eight European publications, including the Guardian and the Financial Times, have already signed up to the program, which will be known as the Digital News Initiative.
The money will go towards promoting innovation in online news. This includes developing new distribution channels, experimenting more freely with digital content, and training for journalists with staff based in Paris, Hamburg and London. Together with publishers Google will also fund research focusing on data insights, paid-for journalism, news consumption and user behavior across Europe, computer-assisted reporting, audience engagement and more.
"I firmly believe that Google has always wanted to be a friend and partner to the news industry, but I also accept we’ve made some mistakes along the way," said Carlo D'Asaro Biondo, Google's president of strategic partnerships in Europe. "We recognize that technology companies and news organizations are part of the same information ecosystem. We want to play our part in the common fight to find more sustainable models for news."
Over the past couple of years, several European publishers have asked Google to pay a fee in order to use their headlines and snippets for Google News. The company has refused to pay publishers for the content, arguing they don’t make any ad revenue from it, and instead choosing to forego linking to their content. After seeing a drop in traffic, publishers often relent.
This new investment fund may show that Google is willing to work with European publishers, but the company’s worries are far from over in the old continent, where it still needs to deal with the European Commission’s antitrust probe launched two weeks ago accusing it of unfair search practices.