Google Having Issues in Australia; Paying for News, Legal Woes

Google Having Issues in Australia; Paying for News, Legal Woes

This one’s two stories in one – what a deal! Why? Read along and I think you’ll be able to guess… the two are directly related!

Google starts paying for news in Australia – including from InDaily

Google has today launched a news platform showcasing journalism from a range of Australian publishers – including InDaily – and it’s paying for it.

Print article

Google is licensing news content from a range of Australian independent and regional publishers from today. Photo: AAP/Lukas Coch

As a political battle continues between Google, Facebook and the Federal Government over its planned mandatory bargaining code designed to force the tech giants to ‘pay for news’, Google today launched its News Showcase product in Australia.

The showcase, announced last year, features news content from a range of Australian publishers, including InDaily and our sister site InQueenslandThe New DailyThe Canberra TimesThe Illawarra MercuryThe Saturday PaperCrikey, and The Conversation.

Google’s head of news, web and publishing product partnerships in the Asia-Pacific, Kate Beddoe, said today the initial version of the showcase had “a keen focus on leading regional and independent publishers given the importance of local information and the role it plays in people’s everyday lives”.

“News Showcase is designed to bring value to both publishers and readers by providing a licensing program that pays publishers to curate content for story panels across Google services, and gives readers more insights into the stories that matter,” she said.

“Since launching last year, alongside a $1.3 billion AU (US $1 billion) global investment, we’ve more than doubled the number of publications that are part of News Showcase; now, there are over 450 publications across a dozen countries such as the UK, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and Japan. Last month, we announced a global deal with Reuters as well as multiple deals with publishers in France, including the country’s three top daily newspapers.”

She said the Australian publishers involved in the product launched today were among the first globally to sign up.

“We have been continually working with Australian news publishers of all sizes to provide their readers with a different kind of news experience under News Showcase.

“As this early version of News Showcase rolls out, the partnerships will provide financial support for some of the country’s most respected independent, local and regional publications…

“We are looking forward to bringing more Australian media partners on board in the coming weeks and months as we further build out the experience for publishers and users.”

Find InDaily alongside other publishers on the Google news app by navigating to “Newsstand”.

Paul Hamra, the managing director of Solstice Media, the South Australian-owned publisher of InDaily and InQueensland, said the Google initiative offered an opportunity for independent news websites to grow their audience for important local content.

“With local news under stress, finding new channels and new audiences for our premium content, in safe and curated environments, is a high priority,” he said. “This opportunity will give us access to new markets and provide additional commercial benefits.”

Google’s new product displays “panels” with news curated by each publisher.

It says the panels will appear across Google News on Android, iOS and the mobile web, and in Discover on iOS.

“We also plan to bring News Showcase to Search as well as the other surfaces of Google News and Discover in the future,” Google said.

The quickest way to find and follow InDaily’s showcase content is by opening the Google news app and navigating to “Newsstand”.

Google threatens to withdraw search engine in Australia

Cites “unworkable” news media bargaining code.

Google has threatened to stop making its search engine available in Australia if the federal government’s proposed mandatory media bargaining code becomes law in its current form.

Managing director Mel Silva on Friday told a senate inquiry that the landmark code “remains unworkable”, despite government attempts to placate the web giant in a December revision.

Google had previously warned that the code could lead to a “dramatically worse” online experience and the possible end to free services, but until now had not flagged stopping Google Search entirely.

Facebook, which would also be required to pay news organisations using a binding “final offer” arbitration process if no agreement can be reached, has similarly threatened to stop Australians sharing news on its platform.

Appearing before the standing committee on economics, Silva said the company’s concerns centred around three areas, the most salient of which is “the requirement to pay for links and snippets in search”.

“This provision in the code would set an untenable precedent for our business and the digital economy,” she said.

“It’s not compatible with how search engines work, or how the internet works, and this is not just Google’s view, it has been cited in many of the submissions received by the inquiry.”

Echoing the concerns of Tim Berners-Lee, who founded the world wide web in 1989, Silva said the “principle of unrestricted linking between websites is fundamental to search”.

She also pointed to the “unmanageable financial and operational risk” that the laws would impose of the company, which until now has had to meet very few regulations.

“If this version of the code were to become law, it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google available in Australia,” Silva said, adding that this would be a worst case scenario.

Any removal of Google Search, which is used for 95 percent of searches in Australia, would be a blow to the company, as it contributes to a significant chunk of its $4 billion yearly advertising revenue.

But Silva also said that Google is committed to achieving a workable code, proposing technical amendments that would allow it to “pay publishers for value, without breaking Google Search”.

One such amendment would see the code “designate News Showcase and allow Google to reach commercial agreements to pay publishers for value”, instead of payments for links and snippets.

News Showcase – which is not yet available in Australia – is a recently introduced Google product that is part of its plans to pay US$1 billion to publishers across the world over the next three years.

The remaining technical changes would replace the code’s planned final arbitration model with a standard commercial arbitration, as well as require only “reasonable notice” for significant code changes.

Independent Senator Rex Patrick challenged Silva’s assessment, which he said was a “commercial precedent, not a technical precedent” and described as both “distracting” and “misleading”.

“This whole code is not about in anyway breaking the internet. It’s about breaking your revenue streams. It’s about breaking your bank account. That’s what this is about,” he said.

“It does not touch the internet and the way in which it works.”

Silva also used her opening statement to address the “misconception” that users “only come to Google because they can find news”, with news queries representing only 1.25 percent of queries.

“Each year we help more than 19 million Australians find information online,” she said.

“The fact that we offer a useful search engine provides a platform for 1.3 million business, large and small, in Australia, to be discovered by users both here and around the world.”

“This lies at the heart of our concerns with the code that requires payments simply for links and snippets, just to news results in search.”

“The free service we offer to Australian users, and our business model has been built on the ability to link freely between websites. This is a key building block of the internet.”