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Google on Europe charm offensive with news deal

Google has pledged 150 million euros ($163 million) to support and fund news organizations, in a new scheme likely to be seen as a charm offensive following clashes with European regulators.

Through its Digital News Initiative – a partnership with eight publishers including the Financial Times and The Guardian – the U.S. search giant has promised to help organizations with product development, support start-ups and offer training. Google said it aimed to help the media organizations "increase revenue, traffic and audience engagement."

The move comes after European regulators filed antitrust charges against Google earlier this month, alleging that the company "abused its dominant position" in the Internet search market.



EU Google antitrust suit
Dado Ruvic | Reuters

Publishers have had a tense relationship with Google over the years and in December, Google News shut down its service in Spain after a law came into force requiring the search giant to pay for publishers for content.

'Sustainable' news

"Through the Digital News Initiative, Google will work hand in hand with news publishers and journalism organizations to help develop more sustainable models for news," Carlo D'Asaro Biondo, president of strategic relationships for Google in Europe, said in a press release.

The initial partners on the project also include France's Les Echos, Spain's El Pais, Germany's Die Zeit and FAZ, the Netherland's NRC Media and Italy's La Stampa. Interestingly, some of Google's most vocal critics in the media -- such as Rupert Murdoch's News Corp -- are not part of the scheme, although D'Asaro Biondo said that other companies would be welcome to join in the future.

The 150-million-euro fund will be available over the course of three years to established organizations, online-only publications and news start-ups. Google also said it would have dedicated staff based in Paris, Hamburg and London to work with newsrooms on digital skills.

Caution

But even those that are part of the Digital News Initiative have expressed caution. Tony Danker, international director of Guardian News & Media Limited, said the scheme had potential, but added that he hoped the partnerships – which only apply in Europe - will be rolled out globally.

"That potential depends on whether, having been conceived by Google in Europe, it is now adopted in Mountain View," Tony Danker, international director of Guardian News & Media Limited, told The Guardian, referring to Google's U.S. headquarters.

Google is not the only tech company courting news companies. A report in The New York Times earlier this year claimed that Facebook was talking to publishers about hosting news content on the social networking site, rather than linking users back to the company's webpage.