Google: the “frenemy” of European media

Laura Cholwill looks at the impact of Google's offering of cash to support Europe's media and what this means for brands.


Only a few months ago, the newspapers were full of headlines that Google had shut down Google News in Spain after officials implemented a new law which requires aggregators to pay publishers for linking to their content. Spanish media were understandably concerned, as Google News is typically one of the main drivers of traffic to their websites – just as any UK publication would be if the same were to happen here.

Last week, the tables have turned and the world is shouting about Google offering cash to support Europe’s media.  As part of its Digital News Initiative, Google and eight European newspapers, including The Guardian and The FT, have partnered to “support quality journalism”. But what does this mean?

In practice, Google is stumping up $160 million for the publications to invest in journalism training, product development and innovative digital storytelling techniques. In addition, Google will work with them to help boost revenue through ads, apps, paywalls and analytics data.

Some are sceptical that this new partnership promises a lot and may struggle to deliver quite as much. However, this is undoubtedly good news for European publishers, allowing them to keep afloat in the digital world.

With so many papers struggling with declining print readerships, online presence is absolutely vital. Online content is king, and readers are not the loyal creatures they once were – they are drawn in by attention-grabbing headlines, and will visit whichever site gets promoted within their social platform of choice.

For brands, this partnership is an interesting one. With the reign of online content, many publications have moved towards paywalled content and dialled up advertorial opportunities for brands. In some cases, the lines have blurred between editorial and paid-for content – and for the less discerning reader, the difference is barely perceptible.

This partnership with Google will help publications monetise their online content without necessarily needing to charge brands for advertorials in order to survive; and ultimately helping brands to reach their audience through genuine thought leadership. Whether the publishers will continue to do so as a moneymaking exercise is another question, however.

For the more cynical, Google already plays a big part in the digital landscape, as the largest content curator in the world. This move adds another layer to its involvement with European media – now only one step away from actually producing original editorial content itself.

We’ll have to watch this space to see whether this new partnership has any impact on the quality or type of content produced by the eight European newspapers partaking at this initial stage and if Google will play a slightly more collaborative role with media in future.



Laura Cholwill

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search