Google is forever changing the future of online media

12 months ago, Google launched the Google News Initiative to combat bad journalism and fake news on the Internet. After a year, it's time to take stock of some of the innovative ideas that have been able to see the light thanks to this initiative.

What is Google News Initiative

The Google News Initiative is an ambitious Google proposal in which the multinational devotes an important fund of money to projects that dare to revolutionize online journalism.

The truth is that for a long time, Google is concerned about the challenges that the media have to face when making their transition to the digital world. Traditional business models are changing dramatically and the rapid evolution of technology forces the media to keep up if they do not want to be outdated.

In addition, Google is aware that in the midst of so much technological revolution and information flow is increasingly difficult to distinguish which news is false and which can be taken as true.

The 3 main goals of the Google News Initiative  

For all this, the Internet giant believes that the Google News Initiative is a necessary and top priority movement. So over a period of three years since 2018, Google is committed to investing some 300 million dollars in collaborative projects to work closely with members of the sector and thus improve the health of journalism.

The three main goals of the Google Initiative can be summarized as:

  • Raising and strengthening quality journalism
  • Evolve journalistic business models to promote sustainable growth
  • Strengthen online media through technological innovation

What has the Google News Initiative done so far?

Significant progress has already been made in the first year of the Google News Initiative. Google's efforts during these first 12 months have focused mainly on experimentation. All this to find the best way to optimize business models, promote quality journalism and promote new ideas and approaches in the media. We are going to see some of the most outstanding projects that this initiative is carrying out.

Encourage journalism through subscriptions

The journalistic business has been experiencing a great transformation in terms of financing possibilities for years. Digital advertising expands to other ways to earn money. That's why one of the first projects that Google has designed with other publishers is the  Subscribe with Google (SWG) platform.

This platform was launched in 2018 and its mission is to provide users with subscriptions and access to new publications through the different devices. Currently, 50 associates from 19 countries have agreed to implement Subscribe with Google and prestigious publications such as The Washington Post or the Financial Times are already using this product.

Beyond the subscriptions, the Google News Initiative does not forget those media that are financed through contributions or affiliation models. In collaboration with The Guardian is evaluating new practices that can help strengthen this business model.

Promote quality in journalism  

It is clear that to combat bad practices, disinformation and fakes news, it is a priority for journalistic companies to forge alliances. They need to invest in innovative product solutions and train journalists in new technological tools for data verification.

For example, in the last year, the News Lab of the Google News Initiative has taught about 300,000 journalists how to use new technological tools to improve the quality of their journalism. The goal of Google is to reach in 2020 the 500,000 professionals trained in this area.

Likewise, to stop the malpractice of journalism, especially at election time, the Google Initiative has intensified its association with other organizations such as the International Fact Check Network and dozens of newsrooms around the world.

Other European projects of the Google News Initiative

In Europe, the Google News Initiative is supporting various entities, as in the case of  Media Veritas to promote media literacy within the most vulnerable communities in Portugal. Another example is  Student View,  a campaign to promote its writing program in schools in the United Kingdom. And the Mannerheim Child Welfare Association seeks to promote local events in Finland to encourage the proper use of digital tools.

Google also plans to uncover new tools to help checkers work more efficiently and effectively: The Fact Check Markup makes it easy for reporters to mark and structure verified data. For its part, ClaimReviews and Fact Check Explorer helps journalists find articles that verify data related to various topics.

New technologies for digital video and audio formats

The application of new technologies is a necessary step to stop bad journalism and fake news. In this regard, and among many other actions, Google News Initiative wants to encourage online media to experiment with new formats that are not just online texts. To do this, it has invested more than 5 million euros in renewing digital audio and has launched a program together with Youtube to develop strategic and sustainable operations within the online video format.

The Spanish case: how El País learned to stop toxic comments on its website

In Spain, Google News Initiative has also done its bit. He has collaborated with the newspaper El País and the developer Jigsaw to finish with the trolls in the comments section of the newspaper. Specifically, they have launched Perspective API, a free app developed by Jigsaw that is based on a machine learning model. This tool is programmed by human moderators to tag and identify toxic comments.

Thus, every time someone posts a toxic comment in El País, a warning will be shown to the offender suggesting that he rewrite or change what is written in order to pass the moderation filter. Since the newspaper has launched this system, the average toxicity rate in the comments has dropped by 7% and the number of comments has grown by almost 20 %.

Additionally, El País is using the toxicity of the comments to include them in its database and thus be more precise. Now they are also able to detect if users tend to make toxic comments, if the feeling of the comment can influence the toxicity or if users have a high rate of toxicity in all their comments.