Google unveils new publishing tools in olive branch to publishers

Japanese newspaper house The Mainichi has been named as the only Asian launch partner in Subscribe with Google, one of the key plans in the Google News Initiative launched overnight.

In the search giant’s latest attempt to support publishers and journalism, the GNI will see Google, which earned a US$110 billion in revenues last year, invest US$300m in media projects over the next three years. These will include projects to “promote journalism in a digital age.”

The ‘Subscribe with Google’ tool allows internet users subscribe to multiple news outlets via their Google accounts.

Other media houses to sign up include Australia’s Fairfax, the New York Times, the FT, and Japan’s The Mainichi Newspapers Co.

This isn’t the first time The Mainichi Shimbun, allegedly Japan’s oldest daily newspaper, has shown itself more open to working closely with the tech companies. Earlier this year, the company teamed up with Fujitsu to speed up its news updates through the use of AI summarisation.

Google’s latest initiative follows the collapse of the First Click Free program – which forced publishers to offer three free articles a day in exchange for visibility on its search engine – and the company’s announcement it would revamp its publisher tools last October.

Subscribe with Google is understood to be working on a split revenue model with the company claiming to take a minority piece of the subscription cost, and publishers getting the “vast majority”.

In a blog post published this morning, Google’s chief business officer Philipp Schindler, wrote: “We need to do more. That’s why we’re launching the Google News Initiative(GNI), our effort to help journalism thrive in the digital age.

“The GNI signifies a major milestone in Google’s 15-year commitment to the news industry, and will bring together everything we do in collaboration with the industry—across products, partnerships, and programs—to help build a stronger future for news.”

The $US300m media fund is a successor to the Google Digital News Innovation Fund launched in 2015 across the company’s EMEA operations. Mumbrella understands the balance of the €150m in that fund will be transferred to the new initiative.

As part of the focus on improving Google’s newsfeed, the company has committed to refining its search, news and YouTube algorithms to favour ‘authoritative sources’ over relevance.

The company will also launch a ‘Disinformation Lab’, which will claims to identify fake news stories and pull them from Google News rankings.

The lab’s launch emerges as the fight against fake news reaches boiling point following allegations that millions of Facebook users had their data harvested to influence the US presidential election.  

Across Asia, several countries including Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines  and Indonesia have turned to government intervention to fight the spread of political disinformation, leading to fears laws could be used to silence free speech. 

One of the other Google features in fighting disinformation will be a US$10m campaign to support global digital information literacy.

The company also announced a range of tools for journalists and publishers including Google Cloud for News giving small and midsize news organisations around the world G Suite and Google Cloud Platform credits, training and support.

Other journalism tools include Outline from Jigsaw, an open source tool that acts like a purpose-built corporate VPN to let journalists safely access the internet and keep their communications secure, AI tools for journalists, and AMP Stories, a new open visual storytelling format build on AMP.

The company also announced ‘synthetic media’ detection tools that can be used by academics working to train detection models of voice and video media that have been digitally altered.


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