Google News Showcase Lands in US, Lowering Some Paywalls in the Process

The paywalls around some news stories will get a little lower when Google launches the long-awaited US version of Google News Showcase(Opens in a new window) sometime later this summer. 

Announced in June 2020(Opens in a new window) and launched in October of that year in Germany and Brazil(Opens in a new window), Showcase inverts the economics of Google News. Instead of Google showing headlines and snippets of news stories and leaving it up to news sites to make money off that content (often via a display-ads market that multiple antitrust lawsuits say is twisted by Google’s exploitative conduct), Showcase has Google pay news sites directly for the right to feature those stories.

Google announced this expansion of Showcase in a blog post Thursday(Opens in a new window) from Chris Jansen, Google’s head of local news and global partnerships. The US edition will feature “more than 150 news publications, 90% of them local or regional,” Jansen wrote, citing such examples as (New Orleans), Oaklandside (Oakland, Calif.), and La Raza (Chicago). Showcase will also feature such national publications as Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal.

News sites will select what stories get featured in News Showcase panels that will send readers “directly to full articles on a publisher’s website,” Jansen wrote. In the bargain, some subscriber-only stories will become free to read: “We’re also paying participating news organizations to give readers access to a limited amount of their paywalled content.”

Google’s post, which also touts updates to other Google initiatives to support journalism, doesn’t discuss how much news sites might get paid. A founder of a local news site who asked not to be identified further called Showcase “significant enough that it’s going to be a nice, steady source of revenue,” if not enough to cover a new full-time hire. 

The founder called Showcase “a pretty good model” for news sites compared to other news aggregators: “Publishers get some revenue and also have more control.”

Google’s debut of Showcase followed years of contentious battles with policymakers in other countries who sought to compel the company to pay news outlets for using snippets of stories in Google News. It’s since expanded Showcase(Opens in a new window) to 22 countries, mostly recently in Belgium.

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That debate over what, if anything, giant tech companies owe to news publishers for linking to their work with some minimal preview of its content continues in the US. California is now considering a bill, the California Journalism Preservation Act(Opens in a new window), that would require large online platforms to pay a “journalism usage fee” to certain in-state publications.

Meta responded to the latest revision of this bill by threatening to block news from Facebook and Instagram in California. Back in 2019(Opens in a new window), that company had earlier rolled out an equivalent of Google News Showcase that had it paying news sites to feature their content on Facebook, but last July Meta told US publishers it was ending that initiative(Opens in a new window).

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