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Google is continually looking for new ways to win over publishers, and the latest effort is something that the company is calling the Google News Initiative (GNI). It’s basically a glorified sales pitch for media creators to use Google products, while simultaneously giving the Silicon Valley giant a new platform to tout all the ways that Google is helping to “empower news organizations” and enable them to “thrive in the digital era.”
Details on the Google News Initiative
The idea of GNI is simple: get more journalists, marketers, publishers and news organizations using Google products. To make that possible, the Google News Initiative includes a wide range of featured tools and online courses to help make journalists smarter, better and more informed.
So far, so good, right? But when you look at some of the “featured tools” that Google is promoting, you have to wonder. Really, “Google Search” is the underpinning of a quality news organization? “Google Chrome” is the best browser to find what you need? Doesn’t that sound like a sales pitch?
Of course, there are some gems sprinkled in there. If you don’t feel like taking a crash course on how to use YouTube (9 lessons, 95 minutes), then you can always take a course on Data Journalism (16 lessons, 86 minutes total). Or, if you are looking for ways to boost the profitability of your news lessons, there’s always a blitz, 55-minute course on “Publishing and Monetization.” That’s useful information, and doesn’t take a major time commitment.
Why the Google News Initiative?
If you cut through all the boring corporate mumbo-jumbo about “evolving business models” and “elevating the quality of journalism,” there appear to be two main goals here – to deflect some of the criticism that Google is getting in the mainstream media (See! We’re doing our part to protect good journalism!) and to get more people than ever before using Google products.
If you’re a marketer or journalist, you can use this sudden philanthropic inclination to your advantage. Free is free, right? For example, if you’ve been wondering what in the world AMP is, you can get a free crash course on Accelerate Mobile Pages. And if you’ve been wondering how to use Google Earth for some of your content, there are some nifty tools and courses.
Evolving, not disrupting, business models
However, maybe this is being cynical, but doesn’t it seem like Google is just re-packaging what it already does in a new format? It’s not disrupting anything. In fact, Google comes right out and says that it is working to “evolve business models.” It’s still all about advertising-supporting journalism and getting as many clicks as possible. Sure, maybe you’re using YouTube videos to spice up your content a bit, but it’s still the same-old, same-old. Get as many clicks as possible, and try to monetize those clicks with Google.
At the end of the day, the Google News Initiative is a good way to get up to speed on digital journalism. For anyone new to media and marketing, it could be a good jumping off point. But don’t for a minute think that migrating your entire news or media organization to Google products and the Google platform is going to be a game-changer. Whenever a huge company like Google starts acting like a philanthropic non-profit, your BS radar should be sending out loud pinging sounds.