The Industry

Google Is Spending $300 Million to Bolster the Digital News Industry

Google is spending $300 million to grow online subscriptions and fight fake news.
Google is spending $300 million to grow online subscriptions and fight fake news. LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images

Google announced on Tuesday that it will spend $300 million over the next three years on a campaign to bolster the digital publishing industry called the Google News Initiative. The company plans to launch a number of partnerships and tools that it says will grow subscriptions and crack down on fake news.

The new feature that’s received the most buzz so far is called Subscribe with Google, which allows users to more easily buy a subscription with a publisher through their Google accounts, rather than having to deal with a different sign up procedure for each digital outlet. As long as users are signed into their Google accounts, the paywalls for the sites they’ve subscribed to won’t show up. This service will supposedly allow publishers to more easily amass and track subscribers. There are also reports that Google will soon release a machine learning tool for outlets to predict a user’s likelihood of paying for content.

Subscriptions have become an important source of revenue for publishers as Google and Facebook have a virtual duopoly on the digital ad market—CNBC has reported that the two companies account for an estimated 73 percent of all the U.S.’s digital advertising. Plus, Google and Facebook’s have made decisions that effectively cut the web traffic outlets rely on for advertising. For example, Facebook’s recently moved to decrease the amount of publisher content in its newsfeed.

Another facet of the Google News Initiative is its partnerships with media organizations to blunt the scourge of fake news. Around $10 million will go towards a join effort called MediaWise, which is aimed at producing classroom curriculums and videos to help young internet users distinguish between real and fake information online. The Poynter Institute, Stanford University, and YouTube star and author John Green are attached to the project.

Details on the other initiatives to stamp out online hoaxes are fairly scarce, though it appears that Google will be launching something called the Disinfo Lab with Harvard’s Shorenstein Center to combat false news stories during election cycles and breaking news scenarios. The web giant also mentioned that it is working on a tool to identify videos that have been modified—i.e. deep fakes—though it’s also unclear at the moment how that will work.