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Google Digital News Initiative’s €150M Innovation Fund

October 22, 2015 - Written By David Steele

Google’s President of the EMEA Strategic Relationships department, Carlo d’Asaro Biondo, has been speaking today to update the world with Google’s progress at the Digital News Initiative since April 2015. In his speech today, Carlo outlined how the rapid adoption of the smartphone has changed how people access the news. Google’s own data shows that two thirds of smartphone customers use news services on their device and how customer preference is for a blend of speed and video services, through a mix of social channels and dedicated news applications. Carlos also touched on the universal dislike of adverts, but stated that customers do not like the wrong type of advert. Google was working on an industry usable fix to the adblocker threat; advertising has supported the news and media sectors for hundreds of years.

As an outline of the Digital News Initiative, or DNI, Carlo reiterated that the initiative was designed to encourage a more sustainable news ecosystem. It sets out to achieve this by promoting an open collaboration between tech and news sectors, where anybody is able to participate from small start up businesses to large businesses. Google is now working with over one hundred and twenty news partners including some of the biggest names in Europe such as Die Zeit, FAZ, Der Spiegel, the Guardian, Financial Times, the BBC, The Economist, La Stampa, El Pais, Les Echos and Euronews. Google is building the Digital News Initiative on three pillars of product development, training and research, and the €150 million Innovation Fund.

For product development, Google’s engineers have been working hard to understand and rethink how customers consume and interact with news and technology. Their solutions will benefit the whole community and include projects such as Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, which is a technology designed to enhance the performance of mobile webpages. The technology is especially useful for those customers on a slower Internet connection, such as in the developing world, and to those customers wishing to read news articles. Google’s research shows that news readers are especially impatient when it comes to reading stories – if a website takes too long to download and render the article, they lose interest. Google’s AMP framework allows publishers to design high performance web pages for “lightning fast” downloading. Carlo stressed that the publisher remains in control of the content and advertising and the AMP framework supports paywalls. The first AMP sites will go live early in 2016.

The second leg is Google providing training and research support for the sector. Here again, Carlo explains that this is about understanding the end customer and how he or she wishes to use and interact with the news. Google has providing training to over two thousand journalists over the year including newsroom visits, conferences and workshops. Another resource that Google has made available is the recent launch real time Search Trends, designed to help journalists and news rooms pinpoint breaking stories and where readers’ interests are.

The third leg of Google’s DNI is the Innovation Fund, which has launched for applications today but the money will not be available until 2016. This €150 million fund is designed to support innovation in European digital journalism and has been set up as a non-refundable fund. It will be used to support new business models or technologies designed to help customers read and interact with the news. The Innovation Fund is available for large and small organisations, individuals, be them working alone or as part of a wider collaborative partnership with other industry players. Google are also implementing a Prototype Track, open to everybody and offering funding of up to €50.000 per project. Carlo also stated that there is absolutely no tie-in with any of Google’s products and for further information, visit the website: digitalnewsinitiave.com.