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Google News App: What Publishers Need to Know

Publishers are front and center. Follow them. Get more stories from them. And support them.”

You would think that was a rallying crying by a publishing house, or a group of publishers.

You would be mistaken. It’s Google. Really.

This month Google has completely overhauled Google News to incorporate a broader range of sources, including magazine articles and videos, as the Silicon Valley giant rolls out subscription support in its bid to raise its game with publishers.

The new AI-driven app pulls together news and video from across the web to create a list of top stories as well as feeds of articles covering readers’ areas of interest, including their local communities. It will replace Newsstand, the company’s magazine app, and its News and Weather apps on mobile and desktop, and stands as a bold competitor to Apple’s native news app.

Google has also added in-app subscriptions to allow readers to directly subscribe to the digital editions of select newspapers and magazines.

In its intro video for Google News, the company covers 3 main points:

  1. There is an overwhelming amount of content being published
  2. Great stories are getting lost in the “deluge of information”
  3. Google is rolling out artificial intelligence to sort through the chaos and tease out the best stories for individual readers

Benefits for Publishers

While being “front and centre” is all well and good, does the new Google News benefit premium publishers in any substantive manner?

The company answers this in more detail on their blog announcement, stating Google News “uses the best of artificial intelligence to find the best of human intelligence—the great reporting done by journalists around the globe.”

Philipp Schindler, Google’s Chief Business Officer, bluntly says, “While the demand for quality journalism is as high as it’s ever been, the business of journalism is under pressure, as publications around the world face challenges from an industry-wide transition to digital,” says “That matters deeply to Google.”                                                                                           .

 In their Publisher Center, Google delves into the nuts and bolts of how they’re addressing this:

“Through a diverse set of features, Google News enables users to learn about and engage with publishers

The Google News experience always includes prominent branding where stories are surfaced and provides monetisation opportunities for publishers, including advertising and streamlined subscription sales.

For example, with Google’s new Subscribe with Google platform, users can simply tap on a publisher’s subscribe button and the payment is instantly taken care of. They can then easily access the paid content anywhere they are logged in.

You can learn more about editorial control and monetisation opportunities in the Publisher Center.

The use of AI

“Humans are generating the content,” says Trystan Upstill, Google News product chief. “We think of the whole app as a way to use artificial intelligence to bring forward the best in human intelligence. In a way, the A.I. is controlling this fire hose of human stuff going on.”

According to the company, the updated Google News will do three things:

  1. allow users to keep up with the news they care about,
  2. understand the full story, and
  3. enjoy and support the publishers they trust.

AI is critical in maintaining this objective, to strike the balance between news the users care about, while also presenting the bigger, consolidated picture so readers don’t get lost in a reinforcing bubble of sameness.

With the AI-powered “reinforcement learning” technology under the hood, Google News will keep getting better at understanding the personal tastes of each individual reader, and match them to publishers who best cater to their specific preferences.

Quality vs. Propaganda

Google artificial intelligence enters the war on fake news.”

Good work from publishers tend to get lost amid a torrent of fake news and clickbait. With the revamped News, Google is attempting to rein in the misinformation.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai sums it up, “In times like this, it’s more important than ever to support quality journalism,” he said. “It’s foundational to the way democracies work.”

Richard Gringas, Google’s VP of News, added on a company blog post, “Bad actors are publishing content on forums and social media with the intent to mislead and capture people’s attention as they rush to find trusted information online,” before continuing, “To reduce the visibility of this type of content during crisis or breaking news events, we’ve improved our systems to put more emphasis on authoritative results over factors like freshness or relevancy.”

What these ‘authoritative’ sources are is yet to be determined and keen observers will be keeping an avid eye on whether they are being used to ring-fence political and cultural debates within carefully guarded parameters.

As a publisher, seems only too happy with Google’s efforts. Talking about how Google artificial intelligence enters the war on fake news,” they throw more light on the issue:

“Google News launches its artificial intelligence content delivery system in a world jaded and jostled by fake news. A recent MIT study showed that fake news is 70% more likely to be tweeted. In the recent Edelman Trust Barometer survey, 59% of people said they were uncertain if any given story were ‘true’ or not.”

And they conclude by touching on the topic foremost in the minds of publishers, “If this news app does live up to its potential, one thing it hopes to accomplish is a boost in readership for news publishers. Last year, Google’s DoubleClick business shared $12 billion with publishers …”

In Conclusion

With its AI-powered News, Google has taken on the onerous task of giving authentic publishers a fair chance at:
  • making their content more visible, 
  • making it easier to get paid, and 
  • suppressing bad actors and misinformation.
It’s too early to make a reasonable judgment on whether they have achieved this, but the initiative goes some way to improving the publishing ecosystem and crucially, giving readers the content they want.