Let’s work together to support quality journalism

Thank you Richard for that introduction and for inviting me to speak today.

Now, you might have seen in today’s papers that we’ve launched the Digital News Initiative together with leading European publishers.

If you did see that story it’s worth spending a moment thinking about how you read it. Maybe you bought a newspaper. Many of you will have read it on your tablet or mobile. Maybe it was in your Facebook feed, or you saw it on Twitter or via Google News. If you haven’t read the story yet, don’t worry - I’m about to tell you all about it using the most ancient form of media - the spoken word. Indeed, it’s interesting that today the spoken word - events such as this one - has itself become an important part of the business mix for modern news organisations.

The aim of today’s conference is to explore the radical changes the media industry is experiencing and to talk about new opportunities for growth.

No-one doubts that the changes are truly radical and challenging. But as we will see today, the opportunities in digital media are practically limitless.

The tools available to journalists today, to access information, to gather and create content and disseminate it to a global audience, represent extraordinary advances compared with what was available just a few years ago. And the quality and ambition of news journalism seems to grow year after year.

The way we consume news is changing dramatically too. More people are accessing more information than ever in history. The number of smartphone users will soon exceed 2 billion. According to Mary Meeker the typical smartphone user checks his or her device 150 times a day.

This represents an opportunity to reach an audience far beyond the morning paper or evening news show of the past. The Reuters Digital News Report found that in Europe in 2014, 37% of us consumed news on a mobile device each week.

Everyone recognises the opportunities the internet offers for the creation and dissemination of journalism. But the “new opportunities for growth” remain elusive. When I talk to publishers in Europe I hear deep concern about their ongoing ability to fund great journalism.

This is felt particularly on the continent. Perhaps the British and the Americans have it easier. In English it is possible to build huge global audiences - the New York Times, the Daily Mail and the Guardian have all proved this. But I’m from Italy, and it is much more difficult for Italian newspapers - and those from other countries with a smaller language base.

So, the challenge for European publishers is clear, but what is Google’s role?

First of all:

Google recognises and admires high quality journalism. As a strong advocate for the free flow of information we know the crucial role it plays in democratic societies.

We recognise that technology companies and news organisations are part of the same information ecosystem. We want to play our part in the common fight to find more sustainable models for news.

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. We are a teenage “tech” company after all!

Over the years, Google’s relationship with news and the news industry has often been misunderstood and - dare I say it - sometimes misreported. So let me take a moment or two to set out how we work with the news industry.
Through Search and News, we send over 10 billion visits, for free, to publishers globally each month. We’re proud of that, and those readers represent real revenue opportunities for the publishers.

And through our advertising platforms, such as AdSense, we shared 10 billion dollars with publishers around the world in 2014.

Today we have more than 65,000 publishers in Google News, and Iet me be clear that those publishers are in control. They apply to be part of Google News. And if at any point they don't want any of their content to appear in Google News or in our Search results, they can opt out by inserting a simple piece of code that instructs us not to index it.

We also work with an increasing number of publishers who want to sell their content directly to consumers, especially on tablets and mobile. Google Play - our app store for the Android operating system - allows news and magazine publishers to offer their content to readers on subscription - whether paid or for free. We are working closely with publishers to improve the visibility and monetisation of their news apps. And today news sources are making their content available on Google Play Newsstand across 19 countries.

We provide publishers with free technology tools to build and engage their audience - whether through YouTube, live broadcasting with Hangouts on Air, or data journalism.

We work with news organisations to make the most of this technology, using it to build an engaged audience. And an engaged audience is essential for successful and sustainable monetisation.

But we think we can do more and better, particularly in Europe. I’m happy to announce here today - alongside a number of European publishers and journalism organisations - the Digital News Initiative to promote high-quality journalism through technology and innovation.

What are we going to do together?

A few months back we held an “unconference” called Newsgeist in Phoenix Arizona, bringing together a wide range of publishers, editors and reporters alongside engineers and developers. The idea of an “unconference” is that the audience chooses the agenda, and the title of one of the sessions they chose was: “What should Google do?”.

Several major European publishers were there, and their message was loud and clear: MORE COLLABORATION. So, we started a detailed conversation with a number of key European publishers, which has brought us to today.

Our joint efforts will be in three key areas.

First, product development. We will create a publishers’ working group from across Europe to explore product developments aimed at increasing revenue, traffic and audience engagement. 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!

We intend to change that - indeed it is my job to change that!

Second, we will significantly increase our investment in training and research. Through our newly established News Lab team we will bring dedicated training resources to European newsrooms for the first time. We are creating training programmes with a number of journalism organisations, including the European Journalism Centre, the Global Editors Network and the International News Media Association.

We will also invest in research into the fast changing media landscape. We are partnering with the Reuters Institute in Oxford to create the deepest and most comprehensive picture of how the consumption of news is evolving in Europe. For 2016 the Reuters Institute Digital News Report will be expanded to cover 20 European countries - an essential guide to the changing news landscape.

We will set up a grants programme for academic institutions who wish to carry out research into the growing field of computational journalism. And we will extend our successful Google Journalism Fellowships programme to Europe, aimed at students interested in using technology to tell stories in new and dynamic ways.

And thirdly, we have allocated 150 million euros to stimulating and supporting innovation in digital journalism within the news industry in Europe, over the next three years. In the feedback we hear from publishers and editors, it is clear that there is a great desire to experiment more freely, but risk-taking comes at a cost. The purpose of this is to make grants available to projects which demonstrate new thinking in digital journalism. No-one knows where the next great idea will come from - but we want to stimulate and nurture ideas that come from those who are closest to the action, from those who know best how journalism is changing. Anyone working on innovation in online news in Europe will be able to apply, including national and regional publishers, new players and pure players.

As someone who has been closely involved in the French digital news innovation fund over the past three years I can say with certainty that the initiative has led to some really inspiring and innovative projects.

  • Le Monde has built a complete new offering for mobile and tablet that significantly improved engagement with their app, increasing page views and time spent
  • Slate.fr built a new kind of newsreader, funded by native ads, that surfaces and curates trending content on social networks. It’s a powerful tool for reporters and great for consumers too.

These are just two of the more than 50 projects funded in France, demonstrating how much can be achieved when we talk and work together.

So I’m delighted to say that joining us in announcing the Digital News Initiative are some of the biggest names in European news publishing.
And we all agreed this is not intended to be an exclusive club - any European publisher, big or small, traditional or newcomer, who wishes to take part in any of the elements of the initiative will be welcome.

Journalism organisations - who play such an important role in helping the news industry navigate the transition to digital - are also welcome, and I am pleased to say that we will be partnering with the European Journalism Center, the Global Editors Network and the International News Media Association. And this is just the beginning - we invite others to join us. You can find details on the website: digitalnewsinitiative.com - or use any good search engine

To conclude:

It would be wonderful if there was one big idea which could fix everything for the news industry. So let me say this - this initiative is not about Google trying to reinvent journalism or to fix the news industry once and for all. That is neither our responsibility nor something we could hope to achieve.

I should also make it clear that much as we admire quality journalism we have no plans to get involved in creating or commissioning news. Although we seem to be quite good at generating it!

But I can’t promise it will be smooth. At Google we know that innovation is never a linear process. It’s always messy and often happens in random ways. Sometimes - often - we fail.

But I am convinced we will achieve much more if journalism and technology work together rather than apart.

Thank you