Google & the business of news

February 8, 2021
Rachel Ellison

Google News Showcase launches in Australia.

Australia got its first look at Google News Showcase this week (4 Feb).

The release, first announced in mid-2020, has gain a lot of attention in Australia in recent weeks, as Google highlighted News Showcase as an alternative option to current format of the proposed News Media Bargaining Code.

Google News Showcase is a new news experience that launched in some global markets in late 2020. Google has previously withheld bringing the News Showcase product to Australia over disagreement about the Australian government’s proposed news media code.

Alongside a considerable investment (AU $1.3b), Google has been bringing on more and more publishers and content. There are currently over 450 publications across a dozen countries including the UK, Germany, Brazil, and Canada.

Google’s intention with this experience is to let readers dive deeper into more complex stories and stay informed on the issues and events that local, national, and global newsrooms highlight through their Google News Showcase panels. 

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Why should I care?

If, like us, you’ve been watching the media coverage surrounding the News Media Bargaining Code with interest over the month, the launch of News Showcase in Australia could be very important.

You can read our summary of the code and the media coverage on it here.

Google has said that the initial version will have a focus on local, regional and independent publishers, given the “importance of local information and the role it will play in people’s everyday lives”.

The roll-out of News Showcase comes off the back of Senators recently advising in parliamentary hearings that they couldn’t tell if it would be a suitable solution or compromise to the News Media Bargaining Code for fairly financially supporting news publishers, as the product was not yet tested in Australia.

Source: Media Watch, Google News war

At the beginning of Febraury, Nine (the parent company for publications like the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age) initially dismissed Google’s offer to pay media organisations with the launch of Showcase – stating it wouldn’t negotiate with Google prior to the code coming into effect. Read more

But two weeks later, we were reading that it was all sorted, with Nine and Google striking a $30m news deal.

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How does it work?

Australian publishers will be paid to provide content for News Showcase. The initial publishers featured in the February 4 launch were among the first globally to sign up, providing early feedback and input on how the product could help bring their journalism to the fore for readers.

As this early version of News Showcase rolls out, the partnerships will provide financial support for some of the country’s independent, local and regional publications including The Canberra TimesThe Illawarra MercuryThe Saturday PaperCrikeyThe New Daily,  InDaily, InQueensland and The Conversation.

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.

– Tony Kendall, CEO of Australian Community Media

Panels on News Showcase display an enhanced view of an article or articles, giving participating publishers more ways to bring important news to readers and explain it in their own voice, along with more direct control of presentation and branding. The panels will appear across Google News on Android, iOS and the mobile web, and in Discover on iOS, bringing high-value traffic to a publisher’s site.

Where available, Google will also offer to pay for free access for users to read paywalled articles on a publisher’s site. This will let paywalled publishers grow their audiences and open an opportunity for people to read content they might not ordinarily see.

The expectation is that Google will bring more Australian media partners on board in the coming weeks and months as they further build out the experience for publishers and users, as well as use this as a compromise for some of the components of the News Media Bargaining Code. 

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The final word

The Sydney Morning Herald has since said that the federal government has signalled that it may consider amendments to its digital media code if Google can convince large media companies to sign up, sparking a rush of last ditch negotiations.

As we have said in our summary of the code at the beginning of February(which you can read here) , there are a lot of moving parts to this story. Datisan is keeping tabs on it and will update our blog as more information comes to hand.

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TLDR: Google has announced a new, curated news landing page that could provide the break in the stalemate around the News Media Bargaining code.

Source: Release / Google

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