How Google supports news organizations in the ever changing digital landscape

WHEN I first started in the newspaper industry in 1987, we had to phone in our stories when we couldn’t come to the newsroom. The news organization I belonged to did not own a fax machine yet and there were no computers in the newsroom. The Internet’s official birthday was in 1983 but in 1987, it was but a vague concept for us.

I remember that as a sportswriter, I would phone in stories to an impatient editor or deskman who would say, “Bilisan mo, maiiwan na ako ng last trip na jeep [Hurry, I have to catch the last public transport trip].”

Things have indeed changed since then. The typewriters I used to write my stories on are now museum pieces and who even uses a fax machine? News organizations are heavily reliant on the Internet for research and communications. I won’t be the person who says everything is so easy for journalists these days. It’s not easy. If anything, things are more challenging because competition is so stiff and what’s trending today might be stale news next week.

Google was unheard of in the 1980s but it is now a valuable tool for students, journalists, researchers and so many other people. Google continues to work with news organizations by providing products and programs that support revenue for these groups and also help them survive in the evolving digital landscape. The Google News Initiative (GNI) is now on its fifth year and it continues its efforts to support the long-term sustainability of the news ecosystem. This includes programs like the Journalism Emergency Relief Fund which supported over 5,000 local newsrooms during the pandemic.

In the Asia Pacific, Google has committed $33 million to support over 1,000 news partners and works with news partners in 32 countries. Since the Google News Lab was launched in 2015 in the Asia-Pacific region, it has trained over 171,000 journalists.

Google also launched the News Equity Fund, a global commitment to providing financial support and opportunities for news organizations to support underrepresented communities.

One of the training programs within GNI is the Data & Insights Launchpad created for Southeast Asian news organizations to help them improve their data capabilities. Google also launched the Asia Pacific GNI Innovation Challenge this year. This is an initiative that seeks to empower news organizations by supporting projects that espouse innovation.

With more people opting to get their news first on other platforms like search or socials, these are indeed challenging times for publishers.

For audience development, Google will help news publishers with resources that not only attract readers but also engage them. Engagement is very important in the digital landscape. Among the resources provided by Google are guides outlining practical strategies and tactics required to build and grow a loyal audience; self-serve online tools that are free to use and designed to help new organizations grow user engagement and track audience metrics; workshops; and labs.

Google sends over 24 billion visits to news web sites globally every month to help people discover publishers’ content via Google Search.

“But the 24 billion visits that we send are just part of the picture. It is important to us that we’re providing context to our readers and elevating the original reporting and [fighting] misinformation,” said Kate Beddoe, Director of News Partnerships, Google Asia Pacific. Google also helps news organizations explore reader revenue models, understand key factors for success, implement performance benchmarking, and build your own strategy.

Google provides interactive exercises designed to bring insights from the Google News Initiative Reader Revenue Playbook to life using each news organization’s data. The User Funnel Diagnostic helps new organizations compare their performance across the user funnel against industry benchmarks and identify tactics they can use to improve.

Google’s advertising platforms help many news organization’s digital advertising businesses, and so publishers make money online.

Meanwhile, Subscribe with Google activates new forms of monetization by working with publishers on existing paywalls to help optimize conversion and retention rates of audiences. Google also pays news publishers for quality content curation through the News Showcase and has committed $1 billion globally to the program.

News Showcase is already in Australia, India, Japan and, most recently, New Zealand. More than 340 news publications in Asia Pacific have joined Google News Showcase since it launched in 2020.

The GNI invests in fact-checking organizations around the world, training fact-checkers, and partners with organizations like the International Fact Check Network to support the fact-checking community and fight global misinformation.

In the Philippines, ahead of the recent presidential election, GNI supported #FactsFirstPH and Tsek.ph, which are collaborative fact-checking projects that included news organizations, civil society, the academe, and business organizations to counter disinformation

“These are just a few examples of the ways that we are working in partnership with news organizations, individual journalists and fact-checkers to help them evolve their business models to drive sustainable growth. Through these efforts, we aim to also empower these organizations with new technologies to elevate quality journalism and support high quality information that our readers and audiences need,” said Irene Jay Liu, head of News Lab, Google Asia Pacific.

Image credits: Obi @pixel6propix on Unsplash



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