Google News Showcase launches with ACM, Private Media, The Conversation and more

Google News Showcase has launched in Australia, paying a first round of mastheads – owned by Australian Community Media (ACM), Private Media, Schwartz Media, Solstice Media and The Conversation – for news through licence deals that will last at least three years.

The launch, which was foreshadowed last week after originally being halted when the draft News Media Bargaining Code was released, suggests a softening of Google’s campaign against the code. Mumbrella understands Showcase would ideally sit under a revised code and allow publishers to progress to arbitration should disagreements arise.

Google has maintained the current code asks it to pay for links, which the company has signalled is reason enough to withdraw its search function from Australia should it be enacted without modification. But the launch and three-year licensing deals, initially struck last year, indicate a long term investment in local content and the local market.

Some examples of the News Showcase panels

Google will pay participating publishers – including Crikey, InDaily, New Daily, The Saturday Paper, The Conversation, The Newcastle Herald, The Canberra Times and The Illawarra Mercury – a set monthly fee for at least three years to feature their content, including content usually behind a paywall. In exchange, showcased articles will appear as panels, which Google said gives participating publishers “more direct control of presentation and branding” and “more ways to bring important news to readers and explain it in their own voice”.

These panels will show up on Android, iOS and web versions of Google News, with additional plans to roll them out across Search, and other Google surfaces.

Each featured article links to the publisher’s site, which Google said results in increased traffic, shows readers ads, and offers mastheads to convert readers into paying subscribers.

Some small publishers set to receive payments from Google as part of Showcase have defended the tech giant in submissions to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and senate committee hearing testimony centred on the News Media Bargaining Code.

At the start of the week, Eric Beecher, chair of Private Media, which owns Crikey, and Solstice Media, which owns InDaily, took aim at large media companies like Nine and News Corp which would likely receive the “lion’s share” of the code’s benefits.

“Google and Facebook, they haven’t stolen the content, they haven’t stolen the advertising. I think that’s a crazy pretext on which to base this,” he told senators.

But Beecher did raise concerns about media diversity, and suggested charging the tech platforms a ‘social licence’ could go some way to supporting public interest journalism.

On Crikey’s inclusion in Showcase, Private Media’s head of publishing operations, Zoe Dattner, added that the publisher “has always welcomed the opportunity to explore new platforms and experiment with how we get our journalism out there, and we’re looking forward to what we can learn by having Crikey and SmartCompany appear on Google News Showcase”.

The Conversation, which receives more than 50% of its traffic from Google but does not stand to profit from the code as a not-for-profit, noted the platforms’ offering would be “significantly diminished” without news in an ACCC submission.

“In recent years we’ve noticed Google has been increasing its effort to promote journalism that has gone through a rigorous process of fact checking,” The Conversation Media Group’s CEO, Lisa Watts, said of Showcase.

“The Conversation only works with academics who are experts in their field, and all our articles are carefully curated by professional journalists. This means we’re in a perfect position to work with Google to try and provide a stream of reliable information that can meet the needs of audiences.

“Our aim is to rebuild trust in experts and share quality information with those who need it most and we are working with Google to achieve these goals.”

In a blog post, Google’s head of news, web, and publishing product partnerships, Kate Beddoe, explained that “we’re also making it easier for publishers to learn more about what their readers care about”.

“Publishers are already able to get analytics on their content in a variety of Google products, and in the coming months they will be able to learn even more with News Showcase metrics on Search Console, she said.

“This means publishers will have more data to better understand which articles and topics interest readers the most.”

The Google News Showcase launch publishers were the first to sign up, and provide early feedback on the product, but Google said it will add titles to the list in the coming weeks and months. Showcase is one of the search engine’s biggest investments in news yet, it said, and already live in Germany and Brazil. Google is also readying to launch it in France, the UK, Canada, Argentina, and Japan.

A Canberra Times Showcase panel

ACM’s CEO, Tony Kendall, said, “Showcase is an opportunity for our 14 daily titles to curate their trusted local journalism for Google News users and we are working constructively with Google to explore the exciting potential of this product to engage mobile audiences”.

Rebecca Costello, chief executive of Schwartz Media, added that Showcase “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, The Monthly and 7am and connect it to broader audiences,” she said. “It is one way of addressing the age of misinformation in which we live.”

Earlier this week, Google’s rival Microsoft voiced support for the Code and said it would invest in Australia to plug the gap should Google follow through on its threats to exit. Facebook’s negotiation strategy has also included threats to remove all news from its platform should the code become law.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison as reported to have had a “constructive” conversation with Google’s boss about the proposed new laws, while Treasury told the senate committee hearing on Monday that Google had offered to show the government the Showcase product.


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