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Google to help publishers in Europe grow revenue, through their Subscriptions Labs program

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The GNI Subscriptions Labs program will be expanded to Europe, building on the success of similar Labs in North America and Latin America, according to Richard Gingras VP, News at Google. It will be announced at the second Google News Initiative Summit in Amsterdam this week. 

“Strengthen digital subscriptions capabilities”

The summit brings together hundreds of publishers, news executives, editors and academics from across Europe, the Middle East and Africa to discuss the latest opportunities and challenges for the news industry.

The European Lab has been developed in partnership with FT Strategies and the International News Media Association (INMA), and is designed to help European publishers strengthen digital subscriptions capabilities and grow reader revenue. 

Richard Gingras VP, News at Google

It will be a nine-month program that includes in-person consultancy and coaching to help publishers understand, experiment and optimize their subscription models. The experience and knowledge gained from the initiative will be shared with publishers around the world to help them implement their own digital subscription strategies.

Google is already working with many European publishers on products like Subscribe with Google. It allows readers to subscribe to news publications and maintain access everywhere via their Google accounts. 

“Subscribe with Google lets you buy a subscription, using your Google account, on participating news sites,” according to the company. “Select the publisher offer you’d like to buy, click “Subscribe,” and you’re done. You’ll automatically be signed in to the site, and you can pay—securely and privately—with any credit card you’ve used with Google in the past.”

Users are able to seamlessly access all of their subscription content across devices whenever they’re signed into their Google account. At the last AOP Summit held in London, Christian Heise, Google’s Global Product Partnerships Manager, mentioned, “in tests with two major publishers, we have seen Subscribe with Google work 30% better than the publishers’ own workflow.”

More recently, Groupe Le Monde in France, and Il Fatto Quotidiano in Italy announced ‘Subscribe with Google’ implementations this month.

More support for training and knowledge sharing

Google has also trained 370,000 journalists in Europe through the Google News Initiative in the-last five years. They will be hosting three major training summits with the European Journalism Centre (EJC) this year. They’ll also support over 40 news organizations to host a journalism student for the summer months.

Further, the company has extended its support of the Reuters Institute Digital News Report for an additional three years from 2021 to 2023. The report is now the world’s largest international comparative survey of the major trends in digital news consumption, and is widely used by the industry, analysts, and researchers across the world. 

This new extension will allow the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism to further expand the report’s global reach. It plans to add six more countries to the 38 markets already covered in the most recent 2019 report. This, according to Reuters Institute, “was made possible by support from Google and 14 other sponsors. 

“The extension will also support further in-depth analysis of developments in news and media based on the Digital News Report data and other sources, fellowships for mid-career journalists, and off-site leadership development programmes for senior editors and media executives.” 

The financial value of GNI’s agreement with Oxford University for the extension to August 2023 is £4.77M.

“Google’s effect on the publishing business is pervasive”

Digital publishers have long had a love-hate relationship with Google and Facebook. While the duopoly has given them access to huge audiences, they have also taken away much of the advertising revenue. They have also been accused of undermining the business model of online news media by controlling the ability to reach and monetize visitors. 

“Through mounds of grants, training and in-house expertise, Google’s effect on the publishing business is pervasive, separate from its role as a distributor of content and manager of its digital advertising,” wrote Lucia Moses, Executive Editor, Digiday earlier.

“All this comes with deep unease. Google and Facebook have become publishers’ biggest competitors for digital advertising, having hoovered up two-thirds of the digital ad pie. Publishers are aware of this elephant in the room. But the oft-heard argument is there’s more to gain from embracing Google than not.”

She added, “Traditionally the two companies have not been good partners to content creators – consistently profiting from the original content being shared, without having to pay for it. Over and over, they’ve ignored concerns, been uncommunicative about changes, and treated the shaky economics of online publishing as not their problem.

“However, recently things have shifted: as Google and Facebook have increasingly realized how vital high-quality content pieces—and therefore publishers—are to the success of their platforms, they’ve changed their tone and tried to be more helpful. This doesn’t mean that the tensions have all disappeared, but it does mean that the companies are making moves to be better partners.”

Publishers, both big names and smaller local players, have come on board for various initiatives by the duopoly. Many of them are cautious as they have been burnt before. But all said and done, the duopoly may be a ‘necessary evil’ that publishers have to continue playing with, as they find their own ways to sustained profitability. 

Applications to the GNI Lab are open now and publishers interested in participating can apply here:
GNI Subscriptions Lab: Publisher Application Form