Can Google Be the Face of Change for Journalism in Europe?

Google has become a constant presence in people’s everyday lives. Gone are the days of competing search engines. Yahoo has found its niche. Bing is (somehow) still alive. But Google emerged the champion and merged into the American vocabulary. If you have a question about anything, you google it.

Now Google is trying to expand its reach overseas. The company recently launched its Digital News Initiative, a project that aims to fund new forms of digital journalism in Europe and to give strengthen Google’s relationship with news organizations abroad. The search company has set aside ¢150m (around $166m) in funds to distribute over the next three years. In order to be eligible for the money, a company must be involved in a digital news industry in Europe, and must apply to one of three rounds of funding. According to Google’s website, three different types of funding are available:

Prototype projects: open to organisations — and to individuals — that meet the eligibility criteria, and require up to €50k of funding. These projects should be very early stage, with ideas yet to be designed and assumptions yet to be tested. We will fast-track such projects and will fund 100% of the total cost.
Medium projects: open to organisations that meet the eligibility criteria and require up to €300k of funding. We will accept funding requests up to 70% of the total cost of the project.
Large projects: open to organisations that meet the eligibility criteria and require more than €300k of funding. We will accept funding requests up to 70% of the total cost of the project. Funding is capped at €1 million.

A company does not need to use Google products to be eligible. The first round of applications is due in December.

Launched in April of this year, the funding is decided by a 13-member council consisting of the CEO of Telegraph Media Group, Murdoch MacLennan, and three representatives from Google. News organizations involved include Financial Times, the BBC, the Guardian, and The Economist.

“We’re looking for projects that demonstrate new thinking in the practice of digital journalism; that support the development of new business models, or maybe even change the way users consume digital news.” — Ludovic Blecher, Google

In addition to grants, Google is investing in digital european journalism in other ways. The company, through partnerships with local organizations, is offering Digital News Roadshows, open to journalists looking to enhance their digital skills.

The best part about these events: they’re free of charge.

Some consider Google’s reasoning behind these recent investments in news to be out of self interest. Google has received much flack recently for their adblockers and their overall destruction of the traditional news media. Personally, I think the company’s actions will be beneficial to both european news and the news industry as a whole. While Google has added to the decline of newspapers, this decline has been coming for sometime. Regardless of Google’s intentions, this funding could result in new waves of journalistic possibility and could potentially transform the journalism industry. While the job of reporting on the news hasn’t changed, the means have. And I believe that this significant monetary contribution will help journalists find new ways to make money off of the news.