A thriving news industry is fundamental to the health of our society—and well-functioning political, social, and economic institutions. That is important to Google, too: our mission, after all, is to make the world’s information accessible and useful to everyone.
A critical aspect of that work today concerns the COVID-19 pandemic. All over the globe, a massive immunisation effort is underway. The relatively rapid nature of the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out and the great anxiety that the pandemic has provoked have made this topic particularly susceptible to misinformation. Journalists can play a fundamental role by listening to their audiences’ concerns and providing corrective information about any misconceptions that are circulating.
To support this work, the Google News Initiative launched a $3M Open Fund aimed at projects planning to reach audiences underserved by fact-checking with content about the COVID-19 vaccine.
Today we’re delighted to announce that we are providing funding to Stuff, to support their campaign “The Whole Truth: COVID-19 Vaccination”. In partnership with Māori Television and the Pacific Media Network, this project will be critical in reaching Māori and Pacific communities in Aotearoa, with accurate and easy to understand information on the vaccine and addressing vaccine misinformation.
“Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic we’ve seen misinformation and conspiracy theories on the virus, and vaccines in particular, reach fever-pitch,” says Stuff editorial director Mark Stevens.
“Our priority is ensuring we can get our trustworthy journalism to the audiences that need it, so people can be armed with the facts when making decisions about how to protect themselves from the virus. We commend the Google News Initiative for recognising the desperate need to fight misinformation around this important topic.”
This funding complements Google’s wider efforts to promote authoritative vaccine information, including YouTube’s COVID-19 misinformation policy. We are proud of this very practical initiative with one of our New Zealand news partners, which will directly benefit our local community. This is an important element of a larger, comprehensive approach by Google to contribute to the long-term vibrancy of public interest news and quality journalism.
Supporting New Zealand’s news industry
Last year we reflected on the work we’ve been doing in New Zealand to support the news industry and we’re proud of how we’re supporting local authorities, businesses and media partners to ensure they’re able to share vital information with New Zealanders in moments that matter. In 2020 alone, Google provided the New Zealand Government, small businesses and NGOs with Ad Grants to the value of NZ$8.5 million, to ensure Kiwis were finding information they needed when they were searching for it.
We also recognise the value of local reporting during a time of crisis, so as the pandemic swept through the world we delivered special funding to 76 news organisations across New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa and the Pacific through the Journalism Emergency Relief Fund.
Supporting the new ways Kiwis find news
It is clear that the media landscape has been changing in New Zealand, and around the world, over the past few decades. As Google continues to support the news industry with new programs and products, there have been some questions around the relationship between digital platforms and news publishers. New research by economists at Accenture, shows that newspaper circulation steadily declined between 1950 and 1994, as new technologies and opportunities emerged. The total digital advertising market trebled from 2013 to 2020 and many newspapers shifted their subscriptions online and developed advertising to display on their own websites. However, as the Accenture research demonstrates, the key source of newspaper revenue, classified ads, shifted to new innovative websites such as realestate.co.nz. We’ve seen a similar development in Australia where more than 90% of the decline in newspaper revenue was due to the significant drop in classifieds.
People come to Google to search for many things, whether it's ‘how to videos’, recipes, sport, weather, outfit ideas, or home insurance. News is a very small part of this content and makes up a tiny proportion of overall search queries. In 2019, news-related queries made up just below 1.5% of total queries on Google Search in New Zealand. These search queries helped people to find their way directly to news websites, and that’s another, direct way in which our services and technologies help the news industry.
With the news moving faster than ever, it's clear that journalism is an essential way to keep people informed. Last year we announced News Showcase, a new program designed to bring value to both publishers and readers by providing a licensing program that pays publishers to curate content for story panels across Google services, and gives readers more insights into the stories that matter. We will begin outreach to potential News Showcase partners in New Zealand later this year.
Google is committed to supporting the promotion of accurate and critical information and longer term, we’ll continue to partner, along with many others, to support a strong future for journalism in New Zealand.