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Google will pay publishers for 'high-quality' news and absorb paywall costs

The search giant said it will soon launch an all-new "news experience."
Steve Dent, @stevetdent
June 25, 2020
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MOUNTAIN VIEW, UNITED STATES - 2020/02/23: American multinational technology company Google logo seen at Googleplex, the corporate headquarters complex of Google and its parent company Alphabet Inc. (Photo by Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SOPA Images via Getty Images

Google has announced that it will start paying publishers to license “high-quality” content in an upcoming initiative it’s describing as a “news experience.” It said the service is part of an initiative to better support publishers and no doubt an effort to fend off criticism that it’s harming news sites. It could also confirm rumors from earlier this year that Google planned to launch a news service much like Apple News+.

So far, Google has signed publishers in Australia, Germany and Brazil. “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,” Google VP Brad Bender wrote in a blog post.

In one new initiative, Google will pay publishers to give readers access to paywalled articles on sites that offer subscription services. “This will let paywalled publishers grow their audiences and open an opportunity for people to read content they might not ordinarily see,” Google wrote.

Today, we are announcing a licensing program to pay publishers for high-quality content for a new news experience launching later this year. 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. We will start with publishers in a number of countries around the globe, with more to come soon.

The service will launch first on Google’s News and Discover sites. As for specific publishers, it said that it signed up Spiegel Group in Germany, InQueensland and InDaily in Australia and Diarios Associados in Brazil. “With local news under stress, finding new channels and new audiences for our premium content, in safe and curated environments, is a high priority,” said InDaily managing director Paul Hamra.

Google has been under fire for failing to pay news organizations when it shows news snippets and other content on its search pages, especially in Europe. France recently ordered Google to negotiate with publishers over such payments, while Google maintains that it sells neither searches nor clicks.

Google has said that it’s investing in news partnerships and exploring new ways to work with publishers, and this new venture appears to be a new step in that direction. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has also provided funding to 5,300 local news sites via Journalism Emergency Relief Fund, ad-serving fee waivers and a $15 million campaign.

However, publishers and particularly local news sites continue to close at unprecedented rates, depriving citizens of invaluable information resources. Some of the recent closures are due to the pandemic, but over the long term, Facebook and Google in particular have been taking ad revenue that used to go to local daily and weekly news services.

Google didn’t reveal other details about what form the new service will take, but promised we’ll learn more about it “in the coming months.”

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