The only constant in the news industry is change. In recent years, audiences have started consuming news in more ways than ever before – from short-form video to curated newsletters, deep-dive podcasts and new ways to monetise traffic including subscriptions.
People not only expect to consume media in a way that suits them, but they also want their activity online to be more private.
At the same time, AI is capturing the imagination of people around the world, with more Google searches for AI in 2023 than any year prior. It’s estimated that AI-powered innovation could create over £400 billion in economic value for the UK economy by 2030.
For editorial and business teams, generative AI is sparking experimentation, presenting new business models and challenges.
In my role as the lead for the UK and Northern Europe News Partnerships team at Google, I regularly talk to CEOs from news organizations of all sizes. I noticed two pieces recently in Press Gazette which don’t reflect how search and privacy experiences are evolving at Google.
I’ll discuss here what I’m hearing from our partners and where I see growth opportunities for publishers in 2024.
Harnessing AI to support journalism
Journalists are using AI-supported tools to enhance their work. While we understand publishers have concerns about AI, we’re seeing many examples where this technology is already supporting and enhancing their work, including in news publishing.
In fact, in 2023, researchers at the London School of Economics’ POLIS think-tank found that 85% of news organisations surveyed have at the very least experimented with generative AI to help with tasks such as writing code, image generation and authoring summaries. And INMA recently published a list of publishers deploying AI for task-related support, creating space for their journalists to go even deeper into their craft of investigating and storytelling.
At Google we’re committed to helping publishers take advantage of this inflection point in technology to help their businesses grow.
Even before generative AI, we’ve been working with publishers on AI projects in the UK and right across Europe for many years in order to diversify their revenue stream, moderate comments at scale or optimise subscriber acquisition. We’ve also built a powerful tool that uses Google’s AI and Search technologies called Pinpoint, which can help reporters quickly search through hundreds of thousands of text, audio, image, and video files.
Pinpoint can help reporters find patterns in data or identify new potential stories, or quickly find a quote they need from a video or audio file.
Two themes that I hear from partners who are experimenting with AI-assisted tools are the exciting potential for new revenue streams and the importance of strong editorial oversight. We are also working on other AI tools to help news publishers harness the power of generative AI to drive revenue and growth.
At Google, we’ve applied AI to our products for many years, including Search. These improvements have given us the ability to better respond to people’s queries and given them new ways to ask questions.
This has created new ways for diverse content creators of all sizes to attract audiences.
In fact, with our generative AI experience in Search Labs (SGE), we’re continuing to send valuable traffic to the ecosystem, including by surfacing more links. This includes surfacing links to a wider range of sources on the results page and giving even more opportunities for content to be discovered.
While it’s not yet available in the UK, we continue to engage with the publisher ecosystem on these new features as they evolve to responsibly develop and roll out this new and exciting technology.
Google is working with publishers to maximise advertising revenue
People expect a more private web and that can benefit publishers. Online advertising is at a turning point and people’s rising privacy expectations mean existing cross-site identifiers, like third-party cookies, are no longer fit for purpose. Because of this, Chrome plans to deprecate third-party cookies by the end of year, subject to regulatory oversight and addressing any
remaining competition concerns with the CMA.
We know there are questions about how this change could impact web publishers. This is understandable. But while other web browsers have restricted third-party cookies without providing viable alternatives, Chrome’s Privacy Sandbox team is working extensively with the industry on the development of new building blocks that safeguard people’s privacy and still enable online businesses of all sizes to thrive.
These tools will be available to publishers and other stakeholders in the ecosystem alongside other privacy-safeguarded signals, like contextual and first-party data. By collaborating with the industry, our aim is to increase people’s privacy while maximizing valuable, qualified traffic and revenue to publishers.
Protecting people’s privacy is important and can help businesses to earn users’ trust. Reducing cross-site tracking can create new product opportunities with first-party data, and we’re already seeing publishers test Privacy Sandbox tools to explore what is possible with new technology.
Today publishers can take steps by working with their technology partners to adopt privacy-centric approaches to monetisation, and can prepare by seeing where they are using third-party cookies.
We’re here to help and our news partnerships team runs webinars and training throughout the year.
2024 will bring new exciting opportunities and challenges for everyone online. We’re looking forward to our continued engagement with the publisher ecosystem to ensure the continued success and vibrancy of the open web.
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