Google rolls out News Showcase in India with 30 partners

Scene one, act one in Google's News Showcase in India or pawn to rook four

Google rolls out News Showcase in India with 30 partners
This is how the curated Google News Showcase may look. Image Google

On 18 May 2021, Google announced the roll-out of its News Showcase in India with the enrolment of thirty news publishers and organisations. The thirty Indian news organisations are part of 700 worldwide that have signed agreements with Google. In return, the publishers and news organisations will receive payment for licensing their content and providing limited access to readers for content behind their paywalls. The financial details are so far not revealed.

The content from Indian publisher partners in English and Hindi will begin to appear in dedicated News Showcase panels in Google News and on Discover, with support for more Indian languages to be added in the future. The News Showcase will allow the enrolled partner publishers to curate the content displayed as story panels on Google’s News and Discover platforms.

The Indian news organizations signed up by Google include ABP Live, Amar Ujala, ANI, Business Standard, Daink Jagran, Deccan Herald, HT Digital Streams, IANS, India TV, NDTV, Punjab Kesari, The Hindu Group, The Indian Express Group, The Telegraph India, Republic World, and Zee News. Not all of the names are known, and some obvious biggies are missing. In any case, Google says the showcase will be expanded to more news publishers and languages.

“Today’s announcement comes at a particularly challenging moment in India, with Indians seeking out authoritative news and information as the Covid-19 crisis deepens,” said Brad Bender, VP, Product, News, Google. “To support news organisations and readers, we’re introducing Google News Showcase, our new online experience, and licensing program.”

He added that the News Showcase program incentivizes and supports news publishers to curate high-quality content on the Google News and Discover platforms. “As part of the licensing agreements with publishers, Google will pay participating news organizations to give readers access to a limited amount of pay-walled content. This feature means readers will have the opportunity to read more of a publisher’s articles than they would otherwise be able to, while deepening readers’ relationships with publishers and encouraging them to subscribe,” he added.

Google, which together with FaceBook already sponsors most of the publishing-related industry conferences in the country and conducts and supports various skilling programs for journalists, also announced plans to expand this work to ‘audience development and product innovation.’ It said it would train 50,000 journalists to strengthen digital skills in newsrooms and journalism schools across India to help report and combat online misinformation.

Sanjay Gupta, vice president, Google India, said, “Today, we’re also announcing the expansion of our Google News Initiative efforts to bolster journalist training efforts, and new programs to support over 800 small and mid-sized publications achieve financial sustainability with trainings in audience development and product innovation to support.”

Our view

Some of the more prominent dailies in English and Hindi, such as the Times of India, Economic Times and Dainik Bhaskar, do not seem to be in the first list – although they may have already signed up. Or it is possible they are holding out for better terms. Nevertheless, we haven’t been able to find out thus far which organisations or publications make up the thirty.

The Google News Showcase program is presented as a charitable effort by Google to project ‘quality news’ and combat misinformation while injecting some financial sustenance to publishers in the dire straits of the digital transition. One must wonder what happened to the Indian Newspaper Society’s efforts to extract compensation from Google for using their news for free. While several lawsuits are being brought against Google in several countries, the INS sent a letter to Sanjay Gupta vice president of Google India requesting Google to pay for using their news in a manner commensurate with their news gathering efforts and costs.

Google professing to support ‘local news’ while the first list is anything but local in the main – seems another apparent anomaly. Let’s see how this opening gambit, too, plays out.

Note: We have slightly corrected this article on 25 May 2021 since the first version erroneously mentioned Dainik Jagran as one of the big Hindi publishers who had not yet visibly signed up. In fact initial reports by Jagran itself reported that it had signed for the India Google News Showcase.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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