Google is being credited with admitting mistakes in working with news organisations as it announced yesterday a new digital partnership with eight European publishers.
The Digital News Initiative has been hailed as an attempt to improve its image after being accused of distorting internet search results and acting anti-competitively by European regulators two weeks ago.
In a speech in London on Tuesday morning, Carlo D’Asaro Biondo, Google’s head of strategic relationships in Europe, is expected to say: “We recognise that technology companies and news organisations are part of the same information ecosystem and we want to play our part in the common fight to find more sustainable models for news.
“We firmly believe Google has always aimed to be friend and partner to the news industry, but we also accept we’ve made some mistakes along the way. We are determined to play our part in ongoing dialogue and business partnership with the aim of building something more sustainable.”
Make no mistake that Google, and its counterpart Facebook, are not interested in helping any content providers.
They are interested in taxing them, plain and simple.
They control the traffic so they control how much that traffic costs and who they will allocate it to.
They are also locked in a battle to the death of retaining this traffic. While Google has long enjoyed a search monopoly upstarts Facebook, Snapchat and a host of other social networks are increasingly stealing that traffic. They're also looking to keep stealing it, by offering everything you need the internet for inside of their proprietary networks.
Google's move addresses two key issues
First is that Facebook, and other social media sites like Snapchat, are building news services that keep users within their ecosystems. They presently drive a large volume of traffic to news sites but that isn't enough - they want it all. Every single bit of it.
Google's business is built around linking people off to other sites and so the model is very different than the newcomers'. It's also less naturally prone to sharing and other social interactions. While this is actually good for publishers, because they control their hard work and retain options for how their sites look and what advertisers they use, the siren sound of Social's massive audience is tough to ignore. The same organizations Google is working with here are trial partners with Facebook and Snapchat.
The money here is to help these publishers figure out a way to keep the status quo relationship with Google rather than jump to a Facebook-only format. Such a format would cut Google out of the equation, as Facebook does not allow its pages to be indexed by Google.
A second and smaller part of this is EC anti-trust damage control. Google is trying to show it can play nice with publishers and get them on-board before the eventual depositions and trial happen. By winning hearts and minds they may be able to offset the wrath of the EC.
But this is outside the true focus of what's going on here. While its a nice bonus (and typically Google-clever) the real issue is the nuclear warhead that is getting launched at the company as social networks build ways to keep audiences in their walled gardens.
Google has to tackle this issue or face being cut off from lucrative search requests and advertising dollar, the company's elixir of life.