Why the future of media consumption and distribution will not be fully online

Google News Lab collaborates with reporters and entrepreneurs to build the future of journalism

The future of media consumption and distribution will not be fully done through platforms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter in the future, a top Google executive believes, because the tech giant wants the open web to maintain its openness and appeal to users.

However, Google is keen for the news ecosystem to be platform-dependent, says Richard Gingras, vice president of news at Google during a conversation with The Drum, as preserving a robust and independent press is important for the society and when excellent journalism succeeds, everyone all does better.

Gingras, who was in Singapore in late June to chat with publishers on the Google News Initiative and hosted a media roundtable on topics like fake news and future of publishing, which The Drum was invited to attend, adds that the Google News Lab collaborates with reporters and entrepreneurs to build the future of journalism, partner on projects, and build tools like Google Trends to help them in their work.

“We are also partnering with the news industry to better highlight accurate, quality content on our platforms with new product features and partnerships. Google is a founding member and backer of the First Draft News that is helping efforts to improve social news gathering and verification. We have worked with local media in Singapore to organize workshops and news summit to teach them how the local newsrooms can verify social content and build it into their workflow,” explains the former chief executive officer of Salon Media Group.

“In July 2017, we hosted our first News Lab APAC Summit and welcomed 180 guests from 150 news organizations across 15 countries to our offices in Singapore. Product specialists and experts from newsrooms across the region came together to share best practices, learn about emerging technologies, and engage in open dialogue on challenges critical to the news industry."

How Google is helping publishers

Publishers are bonding together through co-ops to work with technology platforms, like AppNexus, to create unified sources of audience and data for advertisers to buy in the face of diminishing ad revenue because of the walled gardens’ domination and the rise of adblockers. Gingras argues that advertising has been the core of Google’s partnership with the news industry and, through the Google News Initiative, it enables publishers to diversify revenue streams to drive high-growth business models with both advertising and subscriptions.

He also highlights that a core objective of Google’s efforts with AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is to address bad users’ experiences, which he says are often the result of bad ad experiences. AMPHTML Ads is also part of this effort because ad blockers are a symptom of the larger problem of bad website experiences and bad ad experiences.

“Users who download adblockers do so in responses to ads that are irrelevant or intrusive. Improving the ads experience across the web, whether that's removing harmful ads or intrusive ads, will continue to be a top priority for us. Therefore, we continue to invest in modern technology to fight bad actors in the ad ecosystem. In 2017, we took down more than 3.2 billion ads that violated our advertising policies,” explains Gingras.

Voice and AI

As voice assistants like Amazon's Echo and Google Home Assistant become popular worldwide, with Accenture predicting that digital voice-assistant device ownership will reach one third of the online population in China, India, the US, Brazil and Mexico by the end of 2018, Gingras notes that consumers are demanding news through a wide variety of channels, which is why Google is committed to helping news publishers meet those demands.

“Providing a summary of the news is one of the top features of the Google Assistants. We are actively looking at how can the Assistant also provide discovery of new sources. We have established a Working Group with the publishing community on these efforts and are currently working with news organizations around the world, including Singapore’s Channel NewsAsia and The Straits Times, to support this,” he explains.

Gingras also believes artificial intelligence can help with newsroom efficiency and with online news consumption continuing to grow, it is crucial that publishers take advantage of innovative technologies to sustain and grow their business. “Machine learning can yield tremendous value for media and can help them tackle the hardest problems: engaging readers, increasing profits, and making newsrooms more efficient,” he says.

“We are all at the beginning of this journey. The objective is how can we create efficiencies such that valuable news reporters can focus on what they alone can do, and machines cannot,” adds Gingras.

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