Google puts $1 billion on the table for news content

Mariam Cheik-Hussein
By Mariam Cheik-Hussein | 2 October 2020
Google CEO Sundar Pichai

Google will pay news publishers around the world US$1 billion over the next three years to create and curate journalism for its new product Google News Showcase.

News Showcase will give publishers more say in which stories appear across Google’s news products and the way they’re presented. The platform will initially be made up of story panels that will appear on Google News, with plans to make them available on Google Discover and Search in the future.

“This approach is distinct from our other news products because it leans on the editorial choices individual publishers make about which stories to show readers and how to present them,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai says.

“It will start rolling out today to readers in Brazil and Germany, and will expand to other countries in the coming months where local frameworks support these partnerships.”

Google has already signed with nearly 200 publications around the world, including in Australia, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and the UK for the new product.

The tech giant initially announced the new licensing program back in June, signing with publishers in Australia such as Australian Community Media (ACM), Solstice Media, Schwartz Media and Private Media. 

However, local talks with publishers have been paused until the news media bargaining code is finalised, with sources saying it’s unclear how the two payment programs would work together.

The government has been consulting with Google and Facebook, who have been opposed to the draft code, as well as publishers on the proposed code, and has signalled to pass legislation by the end of the year.

“Australia was one of the first countries in the world where we signed agreements with publishers to participate in News Showcase and we were in discussions with many more,” says Mel Silva, Google AUNZ managing director.

“As we’ve previously said, as we work to understand the impacts of the news media bargaining code on partnerships and products, we have put this project on pause for now.

“Although our concerns about the code are serious, we hope they can be resolved so we can bring News Showcase to Australia soon, as we believe the program will help publishers grow their audience and contribute towards the overall sustainability of our Australian news partners.”

Regulators around the world have also attempted to force Google to pay for news content with little success. In 2014, the tech giant closed its Google News service in Spain after the government introduced a law forcing Google to pay news publishers for using their content.

News publishers have welcomed the US$1 billion investment from Google, including News Corp in the US which has entered talks with the tech giant over payments.

“We applaud Google’s recognition of a premium for premium journalism and the understanding that the editorial eco-system has been dysfunctional, verging on dystopian,” says News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson.

“There are complex negotiations ahead but the principle and the precedent are now established.”

While Google has committed an initial US$1 billion, Google CEO Sundar Pichai says both News Showcase and its financial investment will be extended after the three years.

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