Google's project to fill local news void announces first city: Youngstown, Ohio

Key Points
  • Google and McClatchy have chosen Youngstown, Ohio, as the first launch city for their local journalism initiative, the Compass Experiment.
  • Google is spending millions to launch a trio of digital news sites and expects to launch bring its first online this year.
  • The announcement comes just a few weeks after Youngstown's daily newspaper, The Vindicator, said it would be shuttering.
Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California.
David Paul Morris | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Google has pledged to create a new digital news outlet in Youngstown, Ohio, as part of a multi-million dollar project with McClatchy to fill some of the void left by the closure of local newspapers.

The company announced Thursday that Youngstown has been selected as the inaugural city for its joint news initiative, called the Compass Experiment. The program was rolled out in March with the goal of providing local news coverage to three small to mid-sized U.S. communities that are underserved.

The announced plan for Youngstown comes just a few weeks after the city's daily newspaper, The Vindicator, said it would close its doors on Aug. 31. It's just the latest paper to cease operations. The estimated circulation of U.S. daily newspapers plunged to 28.6 million in 2018 from 48.6 million a decade earlier, according to data from Pew Research Center.

Google said it expects to launch the new local news operation in Youngstown later this year.

"There has been much impassioned commentary around the closure of The Vindy after 150 years and we are pleased to play our part alongside McClatchy in helping local journalism develop new approaches for the future," Richard Gingras, Google's vice president of news, said in a statement to CNBC. "We want to explore evolving business models in local news that can benefit not only the people of Youngstown, but communities across the country."

Mandy Jenkins, general manager of the Compass Experiment, said the team has been on the ground in Youngstown for the past several weeks meeting with local leaders and residents to discuss the "area's news needs" following the Vindicator's closure.

"We have found many allies eager to help bring this to life," Jenkins added.

The Compass Experiment is part of the Google News Initiative, an effort launched by Google in March 2018. As part of the initiative, Google committed to spend $300 million over three years on a variety of local journalism projects.

Google said it's spending millions on the Local Experiments Project, which will ultimately include the Youngstown site and two other local news sites as part of the Compass Experiment.

McClatchy said Thursday that it will select two additional cities in need of digital news sites "over the next several months."

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