Torstar, the company that publishes the Toronto Star, is signing on to a news partnership with global search giant Google.
Google News Showcase, which launches today in Canada, is a new service designed to give news from trusted publishers a higher profile and help drive traffic back to the publishers’ websites.
News Showcase will include select stories from partner publishers each day, including some that are only available to subscribers on the publishers’ own websites. The stories are chosen and packaged by publishers, ensuring editorial control remains with the publications.
“Quality, fact-checked journalism is a vital way to connect and inform people, and a crucial tool against misinformation. News Showcase will bring more of our award-winning local and national reporting to Canadians, and the world,” said Jordan Bitove, Toronto Star publisher and Torstar co-owner. “It’s an investment into the future of our newsrooms, our top-quality journalism and the future of news.”
In addition to Torstar, two other publishers — Le Devoir and Les Coops de l’information — are joining forces with Google on Wednesday. Previously announced partners include Black Press Media, Glacier Media, The Globe and Mail, Métro Média, Narcity Media, SaltWire Network, Village Media and Winnipeg Free Press.
The move comes at a crucial time for both the media and tech industries. The media has seen its traditional business model collapsing, with advertising revenue plunging for the last two decades, and subscription revenue not making up the shortfall.
Tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon, meanwhile, have faced increasing calls for regulation amidst their market domination.
Torstar publishes six daily newspapers, more than 70 weekly publications, as well as several specialty websites including TheKit.ca and Wheels.ca. Les Coop de l’information publishes six daily French-language newspapers in Quebec and eastern Ontario.
“Enabling more audiences to connect with content from our six publications is an essential step in our ongoing digital growth. Ultimately, this new partnership with Google will help us produce even more relevant and useful content to the benefit of our communities,” said Stéphane Lavallée, managing director of Les Coops de l’information.
Publishers receive a set monthly fee for use of their articles, which are given more prominence than a simple link to a headline. Neither the amount of the monthly fee nor length of the agreement signed by Torstar was disclosed.
The hope, said Google executive Brad Bender, is to help drive more readers to publishers’ own websites, where they can then become subscribers.
“That is a big driver of the program,” said Bender, Google’s vice-president of product management for news. Bender said Google News Showcase was developed in collaboration with publishers themselves.
Unlike Apple News +, which charges a subscription fee for access to its service, Bender said Google News Showcase will be free to users. That’s something Google has no intention of changing, Bender added.
“It’s really not in our plans,” Bender said.
Google News Showcase is available in more than a dozen countries around the world, and includes partnerships with more than 1,000 publications. It’s part of a $1 billion (U.S.) investment in the global journalism industry by Google.
As part of that investment, Google will be training 5,000 Canadian journalists over the next three years on strengthening their digital news skills. That is on top of the 1,000 the company says it has already trained