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.”
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.