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The long-suffering news business keeps getting big promises from Big Tech

The long-suffering news business keeps getting big promises from Big Tech
[Photo: Flickr user Matt Brown]

With Google under pressure to clamp down on YouTube conspiracies and low-quality clickbait, the search giant is launching a major new effort aimed at strengthening its relationship with news publishers–and perhaps keeping them from going under. At an event in New York today, the company announced the Google News Initiative, a project it promises will help journalism “thrive in the digital age.” Sounds nice to us.

The three-part initiative breaks down like this:

  • Elevate and strengthen quality journalism: Here, Google says it will work to curb the spread of misinformation and disinformation on its platforms, including YouTube, while surfacing more high-quality news content. The company has been criticized recently for pointing users to conspiracy theories in the wake of mass shootings and other tragedies.
  • Evolve business models to drive sustainable growth: The company is launching “Subscribe With Google,” a way to let readers more easily subscribe to news content that is kept behind paywalls.
  • Empower news organizations through technological innovation: Here, Google says it will work with news outlets to help develop and deploy new technologies. As part of this effort, the company has launched Outline, an open-source tool from Jigsaw that lets news outlets easily set up their own VPN on a private server.

Google’s initiative is the latest in a series of recent pro-journalism steps by big tech companies whose platforms have disrupted the news industry’s business and distribution models. Last week, Twitter began testing out a separate timeline specifically for breaking news content. The week before, Facebook said it would let some news outlets label their posts breaking news.

Journalism outlets have long had a love-hate relationship with all three companies. We appreciate the clicks but don’t want to be beholden to the whims of algorithms outside of our control. I mean, does anyone?

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