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Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

Google has pledged more than €94m to digital media projects over three years in bid to ‘help journalism thrive’

By Sam Forsdick

The Google Digital News Innovation fund has helped 59 digital journalism projects in the UK over three years, including fact-checking websites and local news databases, and has so far given €94m to projects across Europe.

The €150m DNI fund was launched in 2015 to “help journalism thrive in the digital age” with news organisations able to apply for a share of the money. The latest and fifth round of applications closed in April.

Initiatives supported so far include Press Association’s “robot written-story” service Radar, which has now been made available to all local newsrooms across the UK, and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s network of local journalists working on big data.

Head of the fund Ludovic Blecher said: “There are few things more important to society than a free and thriving press.

“As the digital world evolves, journalists and publishers are facing new opportunities, but also new challenges.

“Being given the flexibility and the budget to experiment with news innovation projects can help solve some of these challenges.”

Another scheme which has benefited from Google funding is the Local News Engine which aims to “make it easier to find story leads in the huge quantities of data in local planning, courts lists in a busy London beat”.

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The Local News Engine put information from local lists in two London boroughs and a court into a single database and allowed journalists and bloggers to run searches on the data and look for potential leads.

William Perrin, founder of LNE said that it reduces reading time and allows people to easily find stories that would otherwise be hard to spot.

Talking to Press Gazette Perrin said: “Anyone who has ever searched endless local lists will have thought ‘surely a computer can help me with this?’.

“Google money allowed us to bring talented software developers in to help tackle the issue.”

He added: “The €50,000 euros allowed us to use the outstanding team at Open Data Services to develop the software – we couldn’t have afforded them otherwise.”

Perrin has open sourced the code to allow others to copy their approach in boroughs across the UK and Ireland.

The DNI fund is part of the Google News Initiative which is also working on a new platform to help publishers convert readers into subscribers.

But many believe the US web giant is not doing enough to support journalism when it is taking advertising money from the mouths of newsbrands while relying on their content to drive business.

A recent Reuters report found 87 per cent of global executives think Google – and Facebook – should be doing more to tackle “fake news”.

Press Gazette’s Duopoly campaign is calling on Google and Facebook to pay more back to news publishers on whose content they rely.

Sundar Pichai, chief executive of the Google News Initiative said: “Google cares deeply about journalism. We believe deeply in spreading knowledge to make life better for everyone. It’s at the heart of Google’s mission.

“It’s the mission of publishers and journalists. Put simply, our futures are tied.”

Recipients of the fifth round of the DNI funding will be announced in July.

Picture: Reuters/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

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