Hoping to build bridges with Europe's publishers, Google has launched a series of programs aimed at bolstering the news industry.
Under a scheme called Digital News Initiatives, Google is partnering with news outlets to explore new product development and ways to boost publisher revenues, as well as invest in training and research.
Google has spent years denying claims it's strangling Europe's news industry, recently finding itself the target of a new law in Spain that required it to pay fees for reusing headlines and snippets of news stories on Google News - a service it shutdown there in December, to the detriment of Spain's publishers.
The search giant is now teaming up with news publishers to help them find ways to survive in a digital world. Today it is launching its Digital News Initiative with partners including France's Les Echos, FAZ and Die Zeit in Germany, the Financial Times and the Guardian in the UK, NRC Group in the Netherlands, La Stampa in Italy, and El Pais in Spain.
Under the initiative, Google will work with publishers on new product development; create a €150m fund for projects that support innovation in digital news journalism over the next three years; and invest in training and development resources for journalists and newsrooms across Europe. It will also extend its Google Journalism Fellowship to Europe; previously the scheme was only open to the US graduates.
Announcing the program in London today, Carlo D'Asaro Biondo, Google's president of strategic partnerships in Europe, said the company has always wanted to be a "friend" of the news industry. While conceding it has "made some mistakes along the way", the company's relationship with the industry has been "misunderstood".
"Over the years, Google's relationship with news and the news industry has often been misunderstood and - dare I say it - sometimes misreported," Biondo told the FT Media Conference in London.
Google sends over 10 billion visits to publishers across the globe each month, and shared $10bn with publishers globally in 2014, he said.
Google earned $66bn in revenues last year, though if the European Commission's reignited antitrust suit against the company proves successful, it could take up to 10 percent of that. Indeed, as the Guardian notes, Google's news initiative is likely to be seen in Europe as an attempt to clean up its image in response to the suit.
The working group will explore products aimed at increasing revenue, traffic, and audience engagement.
"Over the years we have worked on a range of news-related initiatives, but we tended to work in isolation, and the feedback has been that Google can be complicated to work with, and at times unpredictable. We intend to change that - indeed it is my job to change that," Biondo, a former AOL Europe exec, said.
Notably missing from the lineup of current partners for the initiative is German publisher Axel Springer, one of the key companies which has called for regulatory action against Google.
Google said its news initiatives are open to all publishers in Europe.
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