Google to pay $1B (€849M) to news publishers for new Google News Showcase; European …

Although online publishers rely heavily on Google for their traffic, the long-standing tension between both parties has been palpable. The reason – the former seeking compensation from the latter for using their content.

In a recent development, Google is planning to invest $1B (approx €848M) in partnerships with news publishers, CEO Sundar Pichai announced in a blog post. The product is called “Google News Showcase”, and will first roll out in Germany and Brazil today, before expanding into other countries.

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Showcasing news; supporting journalism

“I have always valued quality journalism and believed that a vibrant news industry is critical to a functioning democratic society,” Pichai says in the blog post.

“This financial commitment – our biggest to date – will pay publishers to create and curate high-quality content for a different kind of online news experience,” he adds.

As per the blog post, Google News Showcase will highlight the editorial curation of award-winning newsrooms to give readers more insight on the stories that matter, and in the process, helps publishers develop deeper relationships with their audiences.

News Showcase is made up of story panels that will appear initially in Google News on Android. The product will launch soon on Google News on iOS and will come to Google Discover and Search in the future.

These panels give participating publishers the ability to package the stories that appear within Google’s news products, providing deeper storytelling and more context through features like timelines, bullets, and related articles. Other components like video, audio, and daily briefings will come next.

Google has already signed deals with 200 publications in Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, the U.K., and Australia. The first publications to launch will be Der Spiegel, Stern, Die Zeit, Folha de S.Paulo, Band, Infobae, El Litoral, GZH, WAZ, and SooToday.

India, Belgium, and the Netherlands will be next on Google’s list for expanding.

“Both News Showcase and our financial investment – which will extend beyond the initial three years – are focused on contributing to the overall sustainability of our news partners around the world,” says Pichai.

Google is currently in a standoff with several European media groups, including Agence France-Presse, over its refusal to comply with a new EU law governing digital copyrights.

According to the European Publishers Council (EPC), “The EU law on copyright contains a neighbouring right for press publishers which is being transposed into national law. In France, where the right was passed into law last year, the French competition authority had to intervene with interim measures in order to bring Google to the table to negotiate in good faith, as they considered that Google’s practices were likely to constitute an abuse of a dominant position and brought serious and immediate damage to the press sector.”

The EPC also doesn’t seem to be impressed by the tech giant’s new product. In response to Google’s launch, EPC Executive Director Angela Mills Wade says in a statement, “It is clear that Google is feeling the pressure of legislation and government action designed to bring them to the negotiating table.”

“Many are quite cynical about Google’s perceived strategy. By launching their own product, they can dictate terms and conditions, undermine legislation designed to create conditions for a fair negotiation, while claiming they are helping to fund news production,” she adds. “It is not yet clear how “News Showcase” will work for all publishers and there are questions how it can work in tandem with publishers’ strategies to implement the EU press publisher’s right. It is important that publishers have the freedom to enforce their rights directly, or participate in collective agreements negotiated under European Union law”.

Google however argues that appeal by revisiting the arguments over whether France’s copyright law requires it to pay for displaying short extracts from articles and whether refusing to do so can amount to a competition abuse. It also highlights that it drives a significant amount of traffic, without additional costs, to the publishers’ websites by displaying their content on its search engine.

Sebastien Missoffe, head of Google France, says, “The new service was being discussed with French media firms as part of negotiations over the EU’s new ‘neighbouring rights’ law. We remain more committed than ever to news publishers so that we can help them with their digital transformations and support quality journalism.”

“Both News Showcase and our financial investment – which will extend beyond the initial three years – are focused on contributing to the overall sustainability of our news partners around the world,” says Pichai.

However, as of now, it remains unclear how much profit individual publishers will make out of this initiative, or if it could be used to drive business models that don’t involve Google in the scene.

Image credits: BigTunaOnline/Shutterstock

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