Google has announced the Digital News Initiative, “a partnership between Google and news publishers in Europe to support high quality journalism through technology and innovation,” which sees it working with eight European news organizations to help with product development and putting €150 million into a three-year “innovation fund.” This evident attempt by Google to mend its bridges with the European news publishing industry comes in the wake of years of complaints about the effects of Google’s services on traditional newspapers, and against a background of the European Commission’s antitrust investigation into Google’s search and Android businesses, with the threat that it could be widened to include other services.
Speaking in London, Carlo D’Asaro Biondo, Google’s European president of strategic partnerships, admitted that the company’s relationship with newspapers had been difficult, and that sometimes Google was to blame: “I firmly believe that Google has always wanted to be a friend and partner to the news industry, but I also accept we’ve made some mistakes along the way.”
In an attempt to win over European news publishers—and perhaps to minimize future complaints to the European Commission—D’Asaro Biondo laid out Google’s plans for the new Digital News Initiative. One strand involves helping European news publishers with product development: “We will create a publishers’ working group from across Europe to explore product developments aimed at increasing revenue, traffic and audience engagement.” Again, he admitted that Google had made mistakes here: “Over the years we have worked on a range of news-related initiatives, but we tended to work in isolation, and the feedback has been that Google can be complicated to work with, and at times unpredictable!”
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