Tuesday, 30 May 2017 03:09

Don't blame Google for journalism woes, says Google Australia boss


Google Australia and New Zealand managing director Jason Pellegrino says the company has been unfairly accused of stealing other people's content, stripping revenue from publishers and harming journalism.Anthony Johnson

Job losses in newsrooms across Australia have prompted many people in politics, media and technology to ask how we can all ensure that Australian journalism has a robust future.

You only need to look at the major stories broken by these newsrooms in the past 12 months to understand how these cuts may impact our journalism in the future.

Investigations that keep those in power honest and defend everyday Australians underscore the remarkable social impact and value of journalism.

But investigative reports alone don't pay the bills that keep newsrooms operating, and the challenges facing publishers are acute: audiences and advertising revenues are shifting after decades of stability.

Job losses in newsrooms have prompted many to ask how we can all ensure that Australian journalism has a robust future.Job losses in newsrooms have prompted many to ask how we can all ensure that Australian journalism has a robust future. AAP

There are also reasons to be optimistic - consumers have more choice than ever, newsrooms are innovating their storytelling and publishers are building new revenue streams - but like any industry transition, change is often hard.

What has been surprising for me about the recent debate is the mis-characterisation of Google as the enemy of the news industry. We've been accused of stealing other people's content, stripping revenue from publishers and not contributing to the journalism ecosystem.

None of this is correct. But we understand why the perception may exist.

When you look at the major shifts in consumer behaviour and scan the landscape for a cause, it's hard not to stop at technology: The internet, mobile phones, search engines and social media. And, clearly, Google is one of many companies driving much of that technology.

We are open about the role internet search engines such as Google and others have played in changing the way people find and consume information.

GoogleGoogle's global CEO Sundar Pichai talks about Google Assistant, but Jason Pellegrino says the company wants to do more to help news publishers thrive. ERIC RISBERG

This has resulted in a wider distribution of advertising across millions of websites and publishers - which Google helps to sell - putting pressure on the traditional model of journalism being cross-subsidised by advertising in newspapers.

But technology has also been beneficial to news publishers, and they have not been passive participants in its proliferation.

They use the web and mobile phones to reach and engage more audiences than ever before, and build new revenue streams through digital marketplaces for jobs, cars and real estate, and more recently through subscriptions.

Opt out of Google

Most often when publishers complain about their content appearing on Search or News it's that their stories aren't visible enough; they use 'search engine optimisation' to boost their visibility on Google.

News publishers know that they are free to withdraw their content from Google Search and Google News at any time, so it is fanciful to describe the indexing of news stories by Google as theft.

Only those who ask to be on Google News and meet our criteria are displayed there, and to date over 80,000 of them have done so around the world.

This is because our search tools send about 10 billion visits to publishers' partners globally each month, and that generates both advertising revenue for them and a funnel into their subscription services.

Meanwhile, there are no ads on Google News and the revenue we do generate from news-related inquiries on Search is most often paid for by news publishers themselves as they market their reporting.

Google does not produce journalism but we help publishers monetise news either by serving ads next to it or by sending audiences to them, where they can sell services such as subscriptions. In this way we helped publishers around the world generate billions of dollars in revenue last year.

We work closely with publishers to build products and services that help the industry, like the open-source Accelerated Mobile Pages technology that allows readers to access news on mobile phones in less than half a second from Google Search - a critical requirement for keeping them engaged.

Symbiotic relationship

Locally we sponsor innovation in journalism with the Walkley Foundation and provide free training for journalists on how to verify information, and use data, maps and video.

Google actively works with news publishers locally to grow advertising revenues and reach new audiences through our DoubleClick platforms, training commercial teams and educating the industry.

We do this to grow the overall digital market, and because our goals are aligned: Google only makes money from these platforms when our partners make money. Commercially, it makes no sense for us to weaken the news media in any way.

Technology is critical to ensuring a bright future for Australian journalism and Google is committed to working with publishers because we believe in the absolute necessity for a healthy, free and open Fourth Estate - now more than ever.

There is still more that Google can do to help news organisations, and we will endeavour to do so. But the right way to deal with these challenges and opportunities should be through collaboration and innovation.

After all, at its core this disruption is driven by consumers. We need to work together, side by side, to build new business models that preserve Australia's best journalism while giving consumers what they want.

Jason Pellegrino is managing director of Google Australia & New Zealand

Source: This article was published afr.com


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