Google’s deal with publishers is good for journalism

Google announced a new partnership with several publishers today. The company will create a €150M fund to support innovation in journalism and product development in Europe. It’s called The Digital News Initiative.

The company launched a $5M fund with similar goals in 2010 through a partnership with the Knight Foundation in the US and later with the International Press Institute in Europe.

I’m a huge fan of this idea. Contributoria (an open journalism network) and Swarmize (a data journalism platform) wouldn’t exist today without it.

It’s certainly easy to be cynical about a company like Google funding new development with partners in a market that they often battle…

And it could easily feel like a diversion from what really matters…

But I think it’s great news all the same.

This kind of opportunity helps organizations not only to think differently, it helps them to actually act on those ideas.

Innovation around the edges of your business is critical, and many publishers are learning from places like the Guardian and NYT how to do that more effectively. But unless you have a way of taking on much larger systemic issues, reinventing your own core activities and supporting failures which will happen now and again as part of the process you may find yourself changing only incrementally and watching the world go by without you.

You will ultimately be managing decline instead of focusing on producing great journalism.

This is not good for publishers large and small. It’s not good for publishing as a market. It’s not good for wider society.

And, as Google and even Facebook are aware, a healthy publishing market is good for business on the Internet.

I’m always a fan of finding ways to create opportunity in the face of adversity. Given the challenges journalism is up against in the world investing in new ideas is going to do a lot more for the trade than costly and destructive legal battles.