As the premier search engine in the world, Google always has to be careful that it is as objective as possible when it comes to delivering search results to Internet users. Over the years, Google has been accused of favoring its own programs over others in search results, and nowhere has Google run into more trouble with the way it does business than in Europe.
Recently, Google announced what it is calling the Digital News Initiative that will be administered through large European newspaper outlets such as Les Echos and FAZ. It is a $163 million investment that will help journalists and newspaper publishers all over Europe to become better at creating content that offers value to its readers. It sounds like a great idea and a generous program from Google, but there are strings attached.
Google Doing Penance
The European Union has never been impressed with the way Google does business, especially with the Google Shopping program. Recently, the European Commission registered a Statement of Objections accusing Google of violating anti-trust laws by putting Google Shopping partners ahead of all other European retailers in search results.
Google was also in trouble in Spain when its Google News service was forced to pay a fee to every European newspaper that Google was linked to. Rather than pay the fee, Google simply pulled the Google News service. European newspaper publishers instantly complained and now Google is embroiled in a battle with the Spanish government.
Google was also accused of enhancing its search results by illegally using thumbnail images from a German newspaper. The newspaper publisher complained, but the resulting actions by Google caused the newspaper’s traffic to drop off, so the publisher relented.
Introducing The Google Digital News Initiative
On the surface, the Digital News Initiative is a very generous program from Google that will make a significant amount of resources available to European newspaper publishers that will improve digital content. The suspect timing of the program’s announcement has many European publishers skeptical and some larger European newspaper outlets, such as Axel Springer and News Corporation, are not even participating in the program.
The newspapers that are taking part in the program are going to get premium digital publishing resources and then they will share those resources with other European newspapers. The program is still being worked out, but Google is hoping to have it officially launched sometime this year. Just as an aside, the German publisher that was damaged when Google illegally used its thumbprint images was Axel Springer. Neither Google nor Axel Springer has any comment on the program or the incident.
Google has always operated under the notion that it has to break a few eggs if it is going to be able to make the very best omelettes, but not everyone appreciates the way Google breaks its eggs. It is unclear if the Digital News Initiative will help to smooth over the rough waters Google has created, but it does show that Google cares about how it is perceived throughout the world.
Will Google dominate in the digital newspaper industry too? Is this just another Google Reader?