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Pressure from editors prompts Google talks over local news funding

Matt Abbott newGoogle is set to hold talks with independent local news titles over possible funding after pressure from editors.

The tech giant will meet with representatives from the Independent Community News Network to discuss payment for its member publications’ content.

Google has previously been criticised by editors of hyperlocal and independent news titles over perceived bias towards bigger publishers in its Google News Showcase programme.

As a result of the criticisms, the ICNN called for talks with Google on the future of the project and the two organisations will now meet next week to discuss the issue.

Around 200 publications across the UK are currently signed up to the Google News Showcase, with Archant, DC Thomson, Iliffe Media, the Midland News Association, Newsquest, JPIMedia and Reach plc among publishers taking part.

Editors including Phil Creighton, of Wokingham Today, and the Bedford Independent’s Paul Hutchinson accused the tech giant of “ignoring” the UK’s independent local news sector after Google announced the launch of a new tool to make it easier for users to find news local to them earlier this year.

Their criticism was subsequently backed by Joshi Herrmann, editor of the Manchester Mill, and Mollie Simpson, of its Liverpool-based sister title The Post, who encouraged Google to back “tiny upstarts” in the regional news industry.

And HTFP reported last week how Paul, whose title covers Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries’ constituency, had urged the MP for Mid Bedfordshire to work with him to secure more cash help for independent publishers.

ICNN deputy director Matt Abbott, pictured, previously told HTFP: “The launch of Google News Showcase last year was a positive development for local news. And the announcement that Google will now give greater prominence to participating titles is, again, a welcome move from the digital giant.

“Unfortunately, independent community news titles that lack the resources to invest in their digital offering have not been included in the partnership.

“In many cases, independent community news titles are the only publications in their communities providing locally-relevant news stories and up-to-date information on the pandemic.

“It is vital that Google recognises and helps highlight these valuable stories from underrepresented communities. ICNN has contacted Google and welcomes a discussion on the eligibility criteria for the Showcase.”

ICNN has declined to comment on the forthcoming talks, while HTFP has also approached Google for a comment.