TORONTO — Cash started flowing from Google to Canadian publishers Wednesday as the tech giant brought a program that pays media companies for news to the country.
The Google News Showcase program went live at midnight, giving 11 publishers the ability to boost the positioning and look of their articles through Google News.
Articles that publishers select to be part of the program appear in stylized boxes at the top of Google News with short summaries or related stories.
Google pays a licensing fee to be able to highlight the stories, which sometimes include paywalled pieces they allow some readers to view for free.
The Canadian launch of the Google News Showcase comes after publishers lobbied governments and major tech companies for years in hopes of receiving more financial support for journalism and stricter regulations for those profiting off news but not creating it.
Sabrina Geremia, Google Canada's vice-president and managing director, acknowledged that past.
"We have a long history of engaging with the news industry in Canada, but we know we need to do more," she said, in a briefing ahead of the program launch.
Google's commitment to journalism comes after the Public Policy Forum's 2017 Shattered Mirror report showed total print classified advertising revenue in Canadian daily newspapers shrank to $119 million in 2015 from $875 million in 2005.
A 2018 report from the Canadian Media Concentration Project also revealed Google had snagged half the country's internet advertising market share in 2018, with Facebook trailing at 27.3 per cent and Bell, Torstar, Twitter and Postmedia sitting at under two per cent each.
That amounts to $3.8 billion in advertising revenue for Google, up from $2.8 billion in 2016.
Google has also said it made $9 million in revenue from clicks on ads through news-related queries in Canada in 2019.
Google's path to working with the global journalism industry so far includes $1 billion in spending and plans to train journalists, help newspapers transition to digital models and help publishers grow their online businesses.
The showcase is a key part of that commitment, but Google refused to share details around the structure and value of the licensing agreements it offered to Canadian publishers.
However, Brad Bender, Google's vice-president of product management for news, said the arrangements are meant to compensate media companies for their "editorial curation."
Through the deals, publishers are obligated to provide a certain number of articles that will appear in the showcase, but Bender did not say how many are required.
He also said Google negotiates extended access to some articles that are paywalled, but not everyone gets to view them for free. Google only lets users beyond the paywall who it assesses as having high odds of striking a relationship with the publisher.
Black Press Media, Glacier Media, the Globe and Mail, Métro Média, SaltWire Network, Winnipeg Free Press, Village Media and Narcity were announced as participants in June.
On Wednesday, Google said Les coops de l’Information, Le Devoir and Torstar had joined too, and teased more could be on their way.
"We want this momentum to continue," said Geremia.
"Of course, we want more eligible folks to be part of this."
But News Media Canada, an industry group representing hundreds of print and digital publications in the country, questioned the program's target participants.
“Short term one-offs with large publishers do nothing for smaller titles, who aren’t getting calls from Big Tech," said Paul Deegan, the group's president and chief executive, in an email.
He felt the structure of Google's program reinforces the need for small and large publishers to band together and seek fair compensation that works for all.
He said, "It’s time to get it done and preserve local news for the long term."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 27, 2021.
Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press