Don’t ‘rent’ their content; co-own it? Google News to fund ideas for quality journalism in APAC

image-google-news-initiative's-ionovation-challenge-to-fund-better-journalism-in-APAC-mediabrief-1GNI’s Innovation Challenge to fund up to to 70% cost of projects of a maximum of USD 300,000. Applications open 28 Nov 2018  to 9 Jan 2019; will be reviewed against several funding criteria, including a ‘sharing component’ — for example by publishing any findings or holding a seminar — so grantees can pass their knowledge on to others in the industry

Don’t ‘rent’ their content; co-own it.  That seems to be the main reason for an innovation challenge announced by the Asia-Pacific Google News Initiative, purportedly to fund new ideas for quality journalism in the Asia-Pacific.

First, some specifics from a Google announcement: To help journalists and publishers in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region produce quality journalism in the digital age, Google News has launched a new innovation challenge.

The Asia-Pacific Google News Initiative (GNI) Innovation Challenge will fund selected projects that inject new ideas into the news industry.

Projects of up to $300,000 will be financed up to 70 per cent of the total project cost.

Applications for the innovation challenge will open on November 28 and the deadline to submit is January 9.

“A panel of Googlers and other tech industry executives will review the submissions and fund selected projects up to $300,000 and finance up to 70 per cent of the total project cost,” Kate Beddoe, Head of News and Publishing Partnerships, has said.

And the funding will be reviewed against several criteria, including a ‘sharing component’ — for example by publishing any findings or holding a seminar — so grantees can pass their knowledge on to others in the industry.

Key words there: ‘Sharing’, ‘publishing… findings’, passing ‘knowledge on to others’.

The Innovation Challenge from GNI comes at a time when, per media reports, Google may shut down its Google News service in the European Union (EU) if a proposed “link tax” for using news stories comes into force in member countries.

The proposed “link tax” is coming per the new copyright directive adopted by the European Parliament on September 12, which states that tech giants must pay for work of artists and journalists which they use.

“To put the rule changes into effect, individual member countries would have to draft local laws,” a report in The Guardian had said.

This is not the first time an attempt is being made to charge Google for links. In 2014, Spain passed a law requiring aggregation sites to pay for news links. Google then decided to close down the service for Spanish consumers.

All said and done, the benefits to modern journalism would be great, particularly at a time when, as Google News said, “journalists and publishers (in the Asia-Pacific) are increasingly grappling with questions over how quality journalism can thrive in the digital age”.

“From Yangon to Manila, Sydney to New Delhi, they are experimenting with fresh approaches to reporting and new business models,” Google News said.

The funding will be reviewed against several criteria, including a “sharing component” — for example by publishing any findings or holding a seminar — so grantees can pass their knowledge on to others in the industry.

What’s important is the revenue sharing that Google News puts in place for those who qualify to receive funding and sign off up to 70% ownership of their news projects. But Google News has said it is “inviting proposals for projects aimed at increasing revenue from readers, including subscriptions, membership programmes, contributions and/or new digital products and services.”

Let’s wait and watch. Google News will send out an alert.

To its credit, however, Google News Initiative works with news partners in three ways – Building products to meet the needs of news organizations and grow their digital businesses; Collaborating with news organizations to solve important business and industry-wide challenges, and Developing and supporting programs to drive innovation across the news industry.

It is a smart and effective way for any organization to remain relevant to and demonstrate its commitment to the society and people who keep it going and growing. One also feels that just like most Indians seem loth to pay for the digital content they consume, Google News too seems reluctant to hurl the spanner of paying its news sources (and hurting its own bottomline) for the content it throws through searches it prioritises itself, and for which it demands  — and thrives on — payments for applicant search results to be bumped up the search results food chain.

So GNI’s gone out and is beginning to want to co-own the content creators too.

Wonder when the monopoly and consolidation deterrents set in. They are notoriously slow on the uptake. (Based upon inputs from IANS)

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