How we connect Canadians to quality content and support the news ecosystem

Posted by Sabrina Geremia, Vice President, Google Canada

Every day millions of Canadians come to Google to find answers to help make informed choices. At a time when access to reliable information is more critical than ever—from COVID-19 to changing political headwinds to taking a knee in support of diversity, equality and inclusion—our longstanding commitment to providing quality search results remains at the core of our mission to make the world’s information accessible and useful.

Helping journalism survive and thrive is of the utmost importance to us. Alongside other companies, publishers, governments and civic society groups, we play a significant part in building a better future for news. We also recognize that the news industry has faced challenges to their business model for decades — first from radio, then television, and more recently from the internet which has dramatically transformed how and where each of us gets timely, relevant information.

With all of this in mind, we’d like to share how Google supports the news industry, which we believe is a fundamental pillar of every democratic society.

Value exchange:
In the pre-internet era, publishers paid to display their content at a newsstand or with a newsagent so that they could be discovered and attract an audience. Today Google Search sends Canadians to news sites millions of times a day for free — providing news companies the opportunity to make money and grow their business and audience by showing people the publisher’s own ads, directing readers to other articles and to offers that convert people into new paying subscribers. Globally, on average, we send users to news sites 24 billion times a month.

We recognise the role news plays in educating and informing Canadians, but it may surprise some that it represents a very small proportion of the websites that people choose to visit from Google’s search results. Canadians come to Google for many things, whether it’s for home decorating videos, weather, fashion tips, or hiking trails. News is a very small part of this content, and represents a tiny number of queries – in the last year news-related queries accounted for just 1.5% of total queries on Google Search in Canada.

Further, we don’t run ads on Google News or the news results tab on Google Search. And looking at our overall business, Google last year generated around CAD$9 million in revenue—not profit—from clicks on ads against possible news-related queries in Canada. That is because the bulk of our revenue comes not from news queries, but from searches with commercial intent, such as when you want to buy “home gym equipment” and you type in the query and then click on an ad.

The value of news to Google is about informing and educating, not economics.

Investment in technology:
In addition to driving traffic, over the years we have invested in creating ad technologies and services that publishers can use to make money from their news content in a more efficient way. In addition to third-party tools, publishers can use our advertising platforms, including Ad Manager, AdSense and AdMob.

When you read a news piece online and click on a Google ad that you liked, most of the money paid by the advertiser goes to the publisher. In analyzing the revenue data of the top 100 news organizations globally, we found that on average, news publishers keep over 95 percent of the digital advertising revenue they generate when they use Google Ad Manager to show ads on their websites.

Paying for content:
People trust Google to help them find useful and authoritative information, from a diverse range of sources. To uphold that trust, search results must be determined by relevance—not by commercial partnerships. That’s why we don’t accept payment from anyone to be included in search results. We sell ads, not search results, and every ad on Google is clearly marked. That’s also why we don’t pay publishers when people click on their links in a search result. To operate in any other way would reduce the choice and relevance to our users—and would ultimately result in the loss of their trust in our services.

All websites can opt out of appearing in Search results, including news media sites, but we find not many news businesses take that step because they value the free referral traffic they get which they can then monetise through ads and new subscribers.

Just as we contribute to the Canadian economy with our pledge to help get 50,000 Canadian small businesses online by 2021 through a one million dollar commitment to expand Digital Main Street’s ShopHERE program nationally, we are willing to pay to help news businesses too. And there already are instances where we do pay for content, where there is a product need — like sports scores and more. So as part of our broader efforts to support a strong future for journalism, we recently launched a new licensing program to pay publishers for high-quality content for a new news experience. We hope to bring this program to Canada soon as part of our overall efforts to help build a better future for the news industry in this country.

We‌ have ‌also‌ ‌committed‌ millions of dollars to‌ ‌support‌ ‌journalism‌ ‌and‌ ‌news‌ ‌publishers‌ ‌in‌ Canada through‌ the ‌‌Google‌ ‌News‌ ‌Initiative‌‌ ‌(GNI) with‌ ‌training,‌ ‌tools,‌ ‌and‌ ‌programs‌ ‌to‌ ‌help‌ ‌news‌ ‌outlets‌ ‌innovate‌ ‌and‌ ‌thrive‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌digital‌ ‌world.‌ ‌This‌ ‌year‌ ‌alone,‌ ‌during‌ ‌the‌ ‌pandemic,‌ ‌we‌ ‌injected‌ ‌millions of dollars globally ‌in‌ ‌‌emergency‌ ‌funding,‌ ‌helping‌ ‌maintain‌ ‌the‌ ‌operation‌ ‌of‌ ‌more‌ ‌than‌ ‌5,600 publishers in 115 countries, including 150 news organizations in Canada.‌ We’ll share more about the impact of GNI in Canada in the coming weeks.

Our efforts to support Canadian businesses and the economic recovery efforts along with the work we are doing with publishers demonstrate we are deeply committed to Canada and the success of all our industries. We will continue to collaborate with all industry partners for a sustainable business model in the news industry, while protecting an open web directing users to diverse, high-quality and authoritative content.