Reflecting on our Google News Initiative work in Aotearoa New Zealand

Today, we reflect on the past two years of the Google News Initiative as we publish our first GNI Impact report. Our efforts have reached every corner of the world, including here in New Zealand, and we’re proud of the work we’ve accomplished in those two and a half years with our partners. We’ve learned that New Zealand’s news industry is resilient, entrepreneurial and diverse. Therefore, despite the shadow of the pandemic and long-term shifts in consumer behaviour that have upended traditional business models, there is reason for hope and optimism.

But we also learned that crises can be unexpected and require unprecedented support. That’s why when the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the world, we refocused our efforts to short-term relief through the Journalism Emergency Relief Fund. Publications across Fiji, Samoa, New Zealand and other Pacific Islands, have received funding to support local reporting throughout the crisis. We were able to provide financial support to a total of 76 news organisations across the Pacific. 

As we look back, here are some highlights of our work in Aotearoa, which spanned three key areas:

Elevating quality journalism

Helping newsrooms to create quality journalism is the first pillar of the Google News Initiative, and this work started here in early 2019 through our partnership with the Walkley Foundation and the work of our News Lab Teaching Fellows. Together, we provided training workshops across New Zealand to support a sustainable future for journalists and to make sure that journalists and media organisations have the digital skills to succeed at their craft. Since then, we’ve trained almost 600 journalists in dozens of newsrooms across the country.

With the recent General Election, the NewsLab team ramped up their efforts, collaborating with news organisations to support online fact-checking. They offered a series of free verification workshops to point journalists to the latest tools and technology to tackle misinformation and support their coverage of the elections. The NewsLab team also launched a bespoke Trends Microsite, which was updated weekly to help Kiwi journalists in their Election reporting, and supported the work of, which helped Kiwis to better understand the core polling issues by creating a complete guide to the election - from party and candidate profiles to summaries of more than 2,000 policies.

Empowering sustainable business growth

Readers’ consumption habits have changed, and media have had to adapt to this ever-evolving environment. We believe in empowering media to find sustainable solutions that will enable their long-term success. For example, we worked with BusinessDesk locally to implement Subscribe with Google, a solution that makes it easier for readers to subscribe to premium content online, and retain access through platforms, to ensure a seamless experience. We hope to help roll this tool out to more publishers across New Zealand soon.

“BusinessDesk is delighted with its experience of being the first news website in NZ to implement Subscribe with Google. The impact on subscription revenue has been immediate and material, and the working relationship with Google a pleasure,” said Pattrick Smellie, CEO of BusinessDesk.

We also welcomed New Zealand Media and Entertainment as part of the first GNI APAC Data Labs cohort. The five month program helped participating news organisations to fully optimise data available to them, but also explore new ways to advance their data maturity. To ensure the lessons from participating publishers were put to good use, we published a playbook capturing use cases to drive data culture in newsrooms. We invite any Kiwi publication to assess their data maturity level here and deep dive into the playbook for applicable solutions.

Empowering newsrooms through innovation

Finally, while the media may face many challenges today, continuous innovation should be front and centre -- and we have seen the innovative spirit through our interactions with Kiwi publications and reporters. Last year, Editor Phillip O’Sullivan was chosen as one of the 12 Fellows for the Google News Initiative (GNI) Newsroom Leadership Program, a collaboration between GNI and the Columbia School of Journalism, to develop the business and product expertise of emerging newsroom leaders from the Asia Pacific region. 

Earlier that year, we also awarded New Zealand Press Patron (Ripple Media Ltd.) as part of the first APAC Innovation Challenge. PressPatron is a media monetisation platform that turns readers into paying supporters, by streamlining the payment process for memberships and donations. Their funded project aims to add new features to their platform, making it easier for traditional publishers to sell print and digital subscriptions under a membership model. 

What’s next

We recently launched the GNI Digital Growth Program in the region, which has been designed with industry experts and news publishers across the world to help small and medium sized news organisations grow their digital businesses. We invite Kiwi media to course through a range of free playbooks, interactive exercises, digital workshops and labs.

We intend to work more closely with local news publishers in New Zealand next year. The focus of our efforts will be on helping publishers innovate to build and optimise their digital advertising revenue streams.

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