Search giant Google, which has been fighting a draft code in Australia that would force it to pay news publishers for content, has announced a new product it claims will allow that to happen.
It says an “initial” $US1 billion ($A1.39 billion) “investment” in “partnerships with news publishers”, announced by CEO Sundar Pichai on Thursday, means Google will “pay publishers to create and curate high-quality content for a different kind of online news experience”.
Google’s announcement comes as it remains locked in negotiations over a proposed news bargaining code in Australia that would mean digital platforms like Google and Facebook would pay news publishers for their content.
The code came after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission handed down the results of an 18-month investigation into digital platforms that recommended tech giants share revenue obtained “directly or indirectly” from news content on their platforms, which generate billions of dollars in advertising every year.
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Google’s latest move is to add a new carousel to the Google News app, which it says publishers could curate themselves to provide further context and information and allow readers to click through to content.
“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,” Mr Pichai said.
The newly announced Google News Showcase carousel will be trialled in Germany and Brazil before rolling out to more countries.
It will first be available on the Android Google News app, followed by the iOS app and eventually Google Discover and Search products.
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Mr Pichai said the editorial curation of the carousel by “award-winning newsrooms” will “give readers more insight on the stories that matter, and in the process, helps publishers develop deeper relationships with their audiences”.
“I have always valued quality journalism and believed that a vibrant news industry is critical to a functioning democratic society,” Mr Pichai said.
“It’s equally important to Google’s mission to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” he added (apparently Mr Pichai’s view is that news outlets should be striving just as hard for both the health of democracy as his company’s goals to create the perfect search engine to sell ads on).
Google flagged earlier this year it would have a “a licensing program to pay publishers for high-quality content for a new news experience launching later this year”, which appears to be this week’s announcement of Google News Showcase.
LEVEL PLAYING FIELD
In July Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg revealed a news bargaining code from the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission, designed to create a level-playing field for Australian media businesses that were forced to work with powerful multibillion-dollar firms like Google and Facebook.
“It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection, and a sustainable media landscape,” Mr Frydenberg said at the time.
“Nothing less than the future of the Australian media landscape is at stake with these changes.”
The announcement prompted a furious response from Google, which unleashed a “scare campaign” on millions of its Australian users, sensationally claiming free services, search results, and users’ income and personal data could be put at risk if it is made to pay for the news it uses.
In an “open letter,” the trillion-dollar tech firm warned internet and video search results would be made “dramatically worse” by the ACCC’s news bargaining code, and claimed “the way Aussies search every day on Google is at risk”.
At the time, ACCC chairman Rod Sims hit back at what he called “misinformation” about the news code of conduct, and said Google would “not be required to charge Australians for the use of its free services … unless it chooses to do so”.
Critics also slammed Google’s new campaign as “balderdash” and called it a desperate attempt to avoid paying news companies for their content in Australia or overseas.