Google agrees to pay publishers in new licensing deal

Google has announced it will begin to pay some publishers for news content following a global push for the tech giant to even the playing field in digital media.

In a blog post from Google News’ vice president of product management, Brad Bender, the billion-dollar business revealed it had signed deals with Germany, Brazil and Australia.

“A vibrant news industry matters—perhaps now more than ever, as people look for information they can count on in the midst of a global pandemic and growing concerns about racial injustice around the world,” said Bender.

“But these events are happening at a time when the news industry is also being challenged financially. We care deeply about providing access to information and supporting the publishers who report on these important topics.”

Bender went on to say the new licensing program would pay publishers for ‘high-quality content’ in a ‘new news experience’ which will launch 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,” said Bender.

The Saturday Paper publisher Schwartz Media and Crikey publisher Private Media have both entered into an agreement with Google, although it isn’t yet known which others have.

Rebecca Costello, CEO Schwartz Media said: “This is a chance to take a leading role in putting quality journalism in front of people. It helps take the rigour of what we do at The Saturday Paper and The Monthly, and connect it to broader audiences. It is one way of addressing the age of misinformation in which we live.”

It’s a turnaround for Google, following managing director of Australia Mel Silva’s comments earlier this year that the platform was nothing more than a digital ‘newsagent’. Silva also slammed comments from News Corp boss Michael Miller and Nine chairman Peter Costello which said that under the ACCC’s mandatory payment code Google would need to part with up to $1bn in revenue.

Google has responded harshly to claims it should pay for news before now, shutting the service in Spain in 2014 after legislation was introduced requiring it to pay publishers for the content. France was also threatened by the tech giant when it attempted a payment code last year.

Paul Hamra, managing director and publisher of In Daily and In Queensland, was vocal about his support of Google’s change of heart.

“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 Hamra.

“This opportunity will give us access to new markets and provide additional commercial benefits.”

Bender ended the blog by pointing to Google’s support of journalism over the last few years.

“In the last few months, COVID-19 has created new and unimagined pressures on the news industry, affecting everything from the creation of quality journalism to the continuation of traditional business models. In response, the Google News Initiative has provided funding to more than 5,300 local publications globally via a Journalism Emergency Relief Fund, an ad-serving fee waiver on Google Ad Manager and a $15m Support Local News Campaign to help alleviate some immediate economic constraints,” said Bender.

“Alongside other companies, governments and civic society organizations, we’re committed to playing our part to support news businesses. Today’s undertaking exemplifies that, and we look forward to what we can all achieve together,” he said.

Silva said the new program is a ‘major development’.

“This licensing program signals a major development in how we work with news publishers and help support the creation of quality journalism,” said Silva.

“This is just the start. We’re in discussions with a diverse array of publishers of all sizes in Australia and around the world — including major publishers, and regional and local papers — and hope to have more to announce in the near future.”


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