Wake up, check the news … according to this year’s Reuters Institute Digital News Report, smartphones have become the main way people access news first thing in the morning. This is just one small example of how consumer behavior continues to change and things that seemed radical when I started working in media more than two decades ago — like instant access to always-on news sources — are now the minimum of what we expect as readers.
As we mark 20 years since Google News launched, I’ve been reflecting on the work our team does with news publishers of all sizes in Asia Pacific to support their focus on reaching audiences with the news content that matters to them. Here are some highlights of this recent work and a look at what’s coming up.
1. Local solutions for local needs
We work closely with the news industry across the region to develop solutions that work locally. In response to feedback from partners, we’ve developed bespoke programs such as Build New Local in Japan. This program is led by local newspapers to help them use technology to connect and digitally transform so they can become more sustainable and reach new audiences. We provided skills training on design and product thinking, facilitated an idea hackathon and brought local newspapers together to work on common challenges and new business ideas.
In Malaysia, we worked with The Star to conduct design thinking workshops to help determine the best way to maintain online readership and drive revenue, while in Indonesia we’ve worked with publishers like MalukuTerkini.com through the Local News Foundry to address their challenges. And in Australia, we partnered with five regional publishers as part of Project Kookaburra to experiment with new business models and strategies to thrive in the digital age.
2. Broader and deeper publisher engagement
In recent years, we’ve expanded our relationships with news partners and strengthened the way we work together, from conducting business training to providing support for publishers through activities such as the Google News Initiative (GNI) Digital Growth Program. In India, we identified more than 300 small-to-medium news publishers producing original news for local and regional communities and provided technical and product training for teams through the GNI Advertising Lab to help them grow digital ad revenues. The program also helps publishers optimize their content management systems, websites and ads.
We announced the GNI Journalism Emergency Relief Fund in 2020 to deliver urgent aid to thousands of small, medium and local news publishers globally as the news industry dealt with the economic downturn prompted by COVID-19. Many news partners in Asia Pacific benefited from this program — for example in South Korea, Jeonnam Ilbo used these funds to highlight the resilience of businesses affected by COVID-19 and connect them with support.
3. Tackling misinformation and supporting fact checking
The impact of misinformation has been top of mind during the pandemic, as people seek out reliable data, health information and updates. In this context we have worked to support local fact-checking efforts, for example investing in CekFakta, the collaborative fact-checking and verification project with the Indonesian Cyber Media Association, the Indonesian Anti-Slander Society (Mafindo) and the Alliance of Independent Journalists. The GNI was a founding supporter of CekFakta and earlier this year we announced additional investment to expand the fact-checking network.
Ahead of the Philippines’ presidential election, we supported #FactsFirstPH, a coalition of more than 100 news, civil society and business organizations to counter disinformation. They authored and amplified more than 800 fact checks and produced several studies on the nature of disinformation during the election period. We’ve also worked closely with DataLeads in India through the GNI India Training Network to train more than 35,000 journalists, media, educators, fact checkers and journalism students in fact-checking and verification skills.