News & Tech interviews Ben Shaw
 on Google News Initiative

Search engine's effort to support quality journalism

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News & Tech put a few questions to Google News Initiative’s Ben Shaw about the search engine giant’s news-related endeavors.
Ben Shaw, Innovation Challenges Operations Manager of Google News Initiative.
Ben Shaw, Innovation Challenges Operations Manager of Google News Initiative.

News & Tech: What is Google’s goal in engaging with the news industry?

Shaw: The Google News Initiative brings together the work we have done over the last fifteen years and represents a major milestone as we play our part to collaborate with the news industry to help journalism thrive in the digital age. We work with the industry in three ways: via products, partnerships and programs. Through rounds of regional funding, the GNI Innovation Challenges empower news innovators from around the world to demonstrate new thinking in online journalism and the development of new publishing business models. In turn, we plan to share knowledge generated from the projects with the wider industry.

News & Tech: What has been GNI’s most successful project so far?

Shaw: The GNI engages with publishers in so many ways that there are successes to share from every corner. From the Innovation Challenges to News Lab, to training and partnerships, the cloud program and the Digital News Innovation Fund, there are many successes that are being celebrated and shared. Past innovation programs have produced ideas for a new kind of paywallor a new way of distributing news. Others produced new thinking on an organization’s workflowsand the way social media unlocks audiences. 

News & Tech: How have news companies reacted to your efforts?  

Shaw: We’ve been heartened by the engagement from so many people looking to drive innovation in different sectors of the industry and the ideas that they are coming up with — like that of CommonWealth Magazine, a Taiwanese news magazine, which will be working on an improved paywall to increase subscriptions and an experiment by Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper, to allow readers to give a “tip” to valuable stories to encourage engagement by potential subscribers  During our efforts to spur innovation in journalism in Europe and Asia-Pacific through the DNI Fund and the Asia Pacific Innovation Challenge, we’ve reviewed over 5,000 applications and selected over 1,000 for interviews and subsequently funded just under 700 projects. Over 90 percent of projects that have finished say they wouldn’t have been able to do the project without our funding.

News & Tech: How do GNI’s efforts link to Google News?

Shaw: 
The GNI and Google News have a similar goal in that they are both focused on quality journalism. Google News is our flagship news product which uses the best of artificial intelligence to find the best of human intelligence via quality reporting to help inform and educate people across the globe. The GNI’s goal is to help journalism thrive as publications across the world make the transition to digital.

Ben Shaw was formerly director of global advisory for WAN-IFRA and chief digital officer for Shaw Media (Illinois). He’s based in Frankfurt, Germany. 
Published with permission from Mary Van Meter, publisher and editor in chief, News & Tech.