Google says it will begin paying news publishers in the United Kingdom to feature articles on one of its platforms, a move that comes as the Silicon Valley giant is trying to prove to global antitrust regulators that it is willing to support the media industry.
Under its Google News Showcase initiative, the company said Wednesday that it had struck agreements with 120 publishers, including The Telegraph, the Evening Standard and the Financial Times. The agreements determine that Google will pay licensing fees — which for some publishers will reportedly amount to several millions of dollars per year — to feature news clips on its Showcase, an aggregated news platform in the Google News mobile app.
“Today, we’re announcing that Google News Showcase, our new product experience and licensing program for news, will begin rolling out with local, national and independent publishers in the U.K.,” Ronan Harris, Google’s UK and Ireland managing director, wrote in a blog post. “Alongside governments, other companies and civic society, we’re dedicated to continuing to support the sustainability of the news industry both in the U.K. and around the world.”
It is Google’s latest effort to prove to governments across the world that it is willing to cooperate with news publishers, many which have been forced to shutter newspapers as advertising dollars have shifted to online platforms. In October, Google said it planned to spend $1 billion globally on partnerships with publishers, and it says it has since signed such agreements with 450 publishers in a dozen countries, including France, Brazil and Argentina.
But the agreements signed under its News Showcase platform haven’t satisfied all governments. In Australia, a proposed law is likely to pass that would force Google to pay news publishers to feature articles on its search platform and news feeds, and must reach agreements with publishers, or be forced into mandatory arbitration — a protection not offered to publishers under the agreement Google has struck in the U.K.
In response, Google has threatened to withdraw its Google Search from Australia. Google has called the Australian law “unworkable” and instead pointed to its News Showcase licensing as a solution. Facebook, which will also be affected by the law, has also threatened to stop showing news content on its platform to Australian users.
“We’ve seen this around the world with Google and Facebook: the only time they’ve been moved is when they’ve been forced to,” Rod Sims, chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, told Forbes last week.
Though Australian effort has been met with fierce opposition by Google, Facebook, and even the U.S. government, it appears to have worked in France, where last month Google agreed to some licensing agreements with publishers after a court intervened.
With the Australian law all but certain to pass, European Union lawmakers said this week they are now considering adopting parts of the Australian law into two new draft regulations that affect tech companies, the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA).
As governments consider more stringent measures against Google, the company appears to be betting that its News Showcase will secure the support of publishers — something echoed in its Wednesday blog post, which included statements from various publishers, including Zach Leonard, CEO of The Independent: “We’re thrilled to join the platform as it rolls out.”
By David Jeans, Forbes Staff