Friday, June 19, 2015
Thank you for that kind introduction. I’m delighted to be back in Barcelona and to speak for the first time at a Global Editors Network summit.
The last time I gave a major speech at a news industry event was nearly five years ago - that was at the World Association of Newspapers conference in Hyderabad. I’m sure some of you were there.
In preparing for today I took a look back at that speech. Here’s a little of what I said.
“Imagine we're in 2015, and [this phone] is a piece of technology which delivers me my news."
"I can flip through my favorite papers and magazines without a frustrating wait for each new page to load. Even better, it knows who I am, what I like and what I've already read. So the stories that appear are tailored to my interests and needs."
"There’s an interesting piece in Egypt's Al-Ahram, translated automatically from Arabic to English. A story pops up about great restaurants in Hyderabad. I tap my finger on the screen, to tell the computer it got that bit right!"
"Some of these stories will be part of my monthly news subscription package. Some - where the free preview draws me in - will cost a few pennies billed to my account. Others will be free, paid for by advertisements.”
NOT BAD - if I say so myself!
It sounded a bit like science fiction just five years ago, but most if not quite all of that has come to pass. For the user consuming news online, the advances of the last five years have been truly momentous. The lightning fast move to mobile has challenged us all. And the quality and ambition of journalism just seems to get higher every year.
But you don’t need me to tell you that the road to sustainable models for journalism remains work in progress
I concluded that speech by encouraging publishers to work with Google, not without us - or against us.
That’s also work in progress!
Unfortunately here in Spain, we’ve had some ups and downs. The ‘all or nothing’ nature of the copyright law led us to close Google News here — lose-lose for everyone, and one of the saddest decisions I’ve had to make at Google. But we haven’t given up. We continue to talk with publisher groups and the government and I hope we can bring it back in the future.
Today I want to talk in a little more detail about how we are working with the news industry in 2015 and how we intend to work with you in the years ahead.
And why. At Google, we believe fundamentally in information, and the role that free flowing information plays in strengthening democracies and economies around the world. Journalism is a vital part of that and we want to play our role in making sure high quality journalism has a sustainable future.
In April we announced the Digital News Initiative, a partnership between Google and news publishers in Europe to support quality journalism through technology and innovation. Today I want to give you an update on the progress we are making.
Less than two months ago we started out with eleven partners, including our hosts here - the Global Editors Network - the Guardian in the UK, Die Zeit in Germany, Les Echos in France and El Pais in Spain. I’m very pleased to say that they have now been joined by more than 65 new participants and we have received over 1000 expressions of interest from across Europe. We invite others to join us.
We are working together in three key areas - on product development, on training and research, and on supporting innovation in digital news.
First: product development.
We agree with news publishers that this is THE crucial area if we are to build more sustainable business models together. It won’t be a simple or quick fix but I believe we really have an historic opportunity to help shape the future of this industry in a way which can ensure the survival of high quality journalism online and which will provide an ever-better service for readers.
It will take time, but our Engineering and Product leaders are already engaged in detailed thinking with a working group of publishers on a set of priorities including video, mobile and monetisation.
I can’t yet tell you what they will achieve, but is great to see some of the greatest practitioners in journalism sitting down for the first time with some of the best brains at Google to figure out how our industries can work more productively together. I’ve been party to some of those conversations and I can tell you that the level of commitment on both sides is sky high.
So stay tuned for product developments.
The second pillar of our partnership is in Training and Research. Through our newly established News Lab at Google our programme of newsroom training workshops - with a dedicated European team - is already well underway.
By the end of this year we will have worked with ten thousand journalists around the world, through newsroom trainings and partnerships with such groups as the European Journalism Centre, the International News Media Association and the Global Editors Network.
At Google we like the joke that goes: “In God we Trust, all others must bring data.” For the past four years we’ve partnered with GEN on the Data Journalism Awards to encourage the growth of this highly promising area of journalism. It has been an inspiring journey through a discipline that was almost unknown 5 years ago - and last night’s awards ceremony was a terrific showcase of some of the most engaging examples. Congratulations to the winners!
We’ve always felt that Google’s aggregated search data has the potential to be a great source of raw material for journalists. In May for example, our search data showed that the British were gripped by two things above all others - the General Election...and the Eurovision Song Contest! What did we learn? Well, first - that an awful lot of people were wondering: why is Australia taking part in the Eurovision Song Contest!
But more importantly, Google Trends confounded the pollsters and successfully predicted that Prime Minister David Cameron would win the election.
After consultation with dozens of journalists about how the platform could be even more useful, we’ve just undertaken a major revamp of Google Trends. We’ve improved the depth, comprehensiveness, and speed of our tools - launching real time Google Trends for the first time. It’s well worth a look and you can see it demonstrated at the Google Trends Booth at the EXPO.
Turning to Research, I’m delighted to say that the Reuters Institute Digital News Report, which we support under the DNI, has just launched its 2015 edition covering 12 countries. It’s full of great statistics and analysis of how the digital news landscape is changing in Europe. And over the next year it will grow to cover 20 countries, making it the most comprehensive picture of how European readers are consuming and absorbing their news.
We have also been busy gathering proposals for our Computational Journalism Awards, and today we are announcing three academic research grants of 55 thousand euros each to encourage collaboration between computer science and journalism at universities in Europe. Congratulations to the researchers at the University of Hamburg, INRIA in Paris, and London’s City University who are the first recipients of these awards. These were impressive proposals with strong potential to become real-world tools for journalism.
In the weeks since we announced the kick-off of DNI, we’ve had some great conversations with key people in the news industry. For example, at an UNconference we organised in Helsinki called Newsgeist, one of the topics which was top of editors’ minds was the question of how their publications can maintain or indeed rebuild trust in this era of atomic news consumption.
In a world of native ads, user generated content and widespread sharing, how do readers know what they are reading is true, or what is the motivation of the publisher?
Based on these conversations we have committed to funding an initiative called the Trust Project, led by Markkula Center for Applied Ethics in California, which aims to propose approaches and structures to rebuild trust in online journalism. I’m delighted to say that the Trust Project has extended its pilot to include a number of prominent European news organisation, including La Stampa, Zeit Online and the BBC. And greater trust should translate into greater value.
Since we announced the Digital News Initiative there has been a good deal of interest too in the third pillar - the Innovation Fund, and I wanted to give you an update.
As you know, we have allocated 150 million euros to stimulating and supporting innovation in digital journalism within the news industry in Europe. The ambition and intent of the Fund is bold: to spark new thinking, which could come from anywhere in the news ecosystem, to give news organisations - of all sizes - the space to try some new things. This is a complicated task and we are in the process of setting up the governance structure for the fund. We want to take the appropriate time and diligence to get this right, and make the process transparent and equitable. We’ll announce the details of the submission process in September.
So what kind of proposals are we looking for? In short, the emphasis will be on the experimental and - we hope - the impactful. We want to see genuinely new ideas from those engaged in the day-to-day practice of journalism with the potential to transform the way we all think of digital news.
We encourage you to think broadly about ideas, rather than the levels of funding - sometimes small, scrappier ideas are enough to get things moving faster than larger, more costly projects. And, as we did with the French fund, at the higher end of investment we will ask that participants share the risk by investing some of their own money as well.
Anyone working on innovation in online news in Europe will be able to apply, including national and regional publishers, new players and pure players. And one final thought on this - perhaps this would be a great area for news organisations to come together to submit joint proposals as there are many ideas that affect the whole ecosystem and collaboration can benefit everyone involved.
Finally, I want to say a word about a subject close to my heart - press freedom. This year, we’ve seen journalists kidnapped and killed while working in the service of providing the world information. And these threats go beyond the physical world: digital threats of surveillance, account hacking, and website attacks have have become a common weapon of oppressors around the world. While Google is not in a position to help guard against physical attacks, we are in a position it protect journalists from digital attacks, and so reduce the chilling effects of those threats.
Over the last year we have quietly operated an experiment called Project Shield to protect hundreds of news sites around the world from attacks aimed at censoring them by taking them offline. We do this by putting Google’s considerable computing power between the attackers and independent media sites to help them stay up in times of crisis when they're needed most.
Project Shield has protected more than 250 at-risk sites in more than 50 countries. For example, during last year's conflict in Ukraine, Ukrainian AND Russian media sites were facing denial of service attacks. Project Shield offered protection to news organisations on both sides, and during that two month period alone, we protected over 650 million page views from censorship. I’m proud of that and we aim to extend the scope of Project Shield.
These are interesting times in the relationship between the news and technology industries - perhaps even historic times.
While we have always sought to be a good partner to the news industry we have tended to operate on different paths, and sometimes the dialogue has either been of the deaf - or of the megaphone.
I - and the Product leaders who build and run Google services - are determined to change that. We recognise that technology companies and news organisations are part of the same information ecosystem. We are committed to playing our part.
And of course it is not just Google.
Facebook, Apple, Twitter and others are also engaged in initiatives aimed at working more closely with publishers and helping to re-imagine the future of news. We compete fiercely with those companies day in day out, but as some have observed, if tech companies are competing to outdo each other in how they work with news publishers, what’s not to like about that?
As the great playwright Arthur Miller put it: “A good newspaper... is a nation talking to itself”. Today we are not just talking to ourselves, but talking WITH each other. Long may the conversation continue.