Google Sets Up Digital News Initiative With European Papers, Including Guardian And Financial Times

Google is to admit it has "made mistakes" in how it treated the media, as it announces a new fund for European newspapers, including The Guardian and The Financial Times, to "promote innovation in digital journalism".

The Guardian and The Financial Times are among the "founding partners" of the initiative, which comes shortly after the EU accused Google of exploiting a monopoly in online search.

Carlo D’Asaro Biondo, head of Google’s strategic relationships in Europe, will say later today: “We recognise that technology companies and news organisations are part of the same information ecosystem and we want to play our part in the common fight to find more sustainable models for news.

“We firmly believe Google has always aimed to be friend and partner to the news industry, but we also accept we’ve made some mistakes along the way.

“We are determined to play our part in ongoing dialogue and business partnership with the aim of building something more sustainable.”

The company said its Digital News Initiative (DNI) would help address "legitimate questions about how high quality journalism can be sustained in the digital age".

Biondo will speak when it is formally unveiled this morning at the FT Media Conference in London, and sees the technology company joining with eight European news publishers, including Germany's Die Zeit and Spain's El Pais.

As well as setting up a working group to encourage collaboration, the initiative will give the papers a £107 million fund for projects over three years.

The development comes in the wake of Google announcing a change in the way it will handle searches from mobile devices, with the search engine's algorithm having been updated so that it gives higher ranking to sites that automatically optimise for smaller screen mobile devices, and penalising those that do not.

It also comes less than two weeks after the European Commission sent a "Statement of Objections" to Google, announcing it was investigating the firm over antitrust and competition violations in its search results, claiming Google was promoting its own products in Europe ahead of the competition.

Google has strongly denied the claims, saying it has enhanced competition in some sectors.

The Guardian quoted "company insiders" who denied the initiative was an attempt to rehabilitate its image in the wake of this, saying Google had been in talks with publishers over the initiative since last summer.

The company has also sought to make itself more focussed on Europe after the landmark "right to be forgotten" ruling from the European Court Of Justice.

Its chief executive Larry Page told The Financial Times last year (£): “I wish we’d been more involved in a real debate . . . in Europe. That’s one of the things we’ve taken from this, that we’re starting the process of really going and talking to people.”

Google said the initiative would address 'legitimate questions about how high quality journalism can be sustained in the digital age'

Biondo will say: "The internet offers huge opportunities for the creation and dissemination of great journalism. But there are also legitimate questions about how high quality journalism can be sustained in the digital age.

"Through the Digital News Initiative, Google will work hand in hand with news publishers and journalism organisations to help develop more sustainable models for news. This is just the beginning and we invite others to join us."

Though the scheme is launching with eight partners, the search engine firm said the Initiative is open for other publishers to join, and will focus on three key areas: product development, supporting innovation, and training and research.

This will include placing staff in Paris, Hamburg and London to work with newsrooms on their digital skills, as well as investing in new training partnerships with journalism organisations, including the European Journalism Centre (EJC).

The Centre's director, Wilfried Ruetten said: "Quality journalism faces entirely new challenges and opportunities in the digital age. To preserve and further develop it, it is necessary to enable journalists, newsrooms, and publishers to respond adequately.

"A major investment in training and development of new tools and techniques is therefore very much welcome, particularly when it comes from one of the driving forces of the internet as we know it today."