Google, it seems, has had a change of heart. After years of not paying publishers directly for distributing their work, the tech giant is working on a licensing programme that will pay publishers “for high-quality” content as part of a “new news product” launching in late 2020. For a while now, regulators have been attempting to force Google to pay publishers. Google has always aggressively resisted the idea, threatening to even pull Google News out of Europe should the EU impose such policies. This new product seems to represent Google’s attempt to outrun that threat by making payments on its own terms.

Brad Bender, Google’s VP of product management, has said that the new programme comprises two elements:

  1. Google will pay select publishers to distribute their work – whether it be video, audio, images or text – as a part of a new news product, details of which have not been made public.
  2. Google is willing to pay publishers for access to paywalled content. The company will offer that premium content to users for free.

The programme appears to have been in the works for some time – Google has already signed partnership agreements with national publications in Germany, Australia and Brasil, including Der Spiegel, The Conversation and A Gazeta

Google News on mobile
Details on Google’s “new news product” are hazy, but the company will pay publishers for “high-quality” content

Clearly, details on Google’s “new news product” are hazy. The blog post in which it was announced says the upcoming service “will help participating publishers monetise their content through an enhanced storytelling experience that lets people go deeper into more complex stories, stay informed and be exposed to a world of different issues and interests.”

But, many industry insiders are sceptical. Joshua Benton of Nieman Journalism Lab has criticised the announcement as a PR move: a democratic facade that’s only surface-level. Google and Facebook are repeatedly blamed for the turbulence of the news industry, so announcements such as this are wins for these companies. 

“From the duopoly’s perspective, the biggest problem with paying for all the news coursing through their digital veins isn’t the money. (They have plenty of money.) It’s that paying for news in any systemic way would attack their core advantage as platforms: organizing other people’s content,” Benton argues.

If you’re a publisher keen for every advantage that wishes to integrate with Google’s upcoming news product then apologies, but that information’s not available yet. We’ll update this article the moment further announcements come. But, we request that publishers are mindful. If Google wants to pay you to keep doing what you’re doing, take the money. But consider that this new product is equally concerned with solving Google’s problems as it is your own.