Google News Initiative: A Conversation About News

In a conversation about how platforms are shaping news organizations, Jane Barrett, global head at multimedia Reuters began the discussion by addressing “the elephant in the room”: Facebook, and Zuckerberg’s recent testimony in front of the U.S. Congress.

Madhav Chinnappa, representing the Google News Initiative as the Director of Strategic Partnerships for Google EMEA, made the point of emphasizing the differences between tech companies. Acknowledging that the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal has brought up the issues of privacy and security, Chinnappa said that Google “thinks about these issues all the time”. Using the example of Google’s privacy reminders for those who have a Google account, Chinnappa said that “hundreds of millions of people have checked their settings”, and Google has endeavored to make this exercise as simple as possible.

To some commentators, platforms have absorbed a significant proportion of power previously held by news organisations. But Chinnappa argued that “we try to use the principle that users control the data”. With this principle in mind, Chinnappa said that Google operates according to the idea that, although 87% of internet uses search with Google, “switching from Google is incredibly easy, so we have to work harder to keep them”.

In an environment where internet users have more access to media than ever, “everyone is competing for the user’s attention.” These developments have been incredibly disruptive, Chinnappa continued, which has been the motivation between the Google News Initiative and its efforts to “focus on the sustainability of the news ecosystem. 

These efforts have required a “multi-pronged approach”, which include fact-checking programs, media literacy initiatives, and providing a space for dialogue between news organizations and tech companies.