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Google News Initiative

Reflecting on our Google News Initiative work in India

Today, we reflect on the past two years of the Google News Initiative as we publish our first GNI Impact report. Our efforts have reached every corner of the world, including India, and we’re proud of the work we’ve accomplished in those two and a half years with our partners.

We’ve learned that the Indian media industry is truly a unique ecosystem, and we must work with all tiers and types of players to be representative and have real impact. To solve for Indian media’s business issues, there is a need to develop bespoke local solutions that are data-driven and also that the industry must work together - from news outlets, to news associations and technology platforms like ourselves. We cannot succeed without each of us working together towards the common goal of creating a sustainable media ecosystem.

But we also learned that crises can be unexpected and require unprecedented support. That’s why when the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the world, we pivoted our efforts. Through the Journalism Emergency Relief Fund, we were able to provide financial support to 228 news organizations across the country, with recipients able to use the fund in whatever way would help them navigate the crisis. For example, Minnambalam was able to keep their newsroom going, the funding giving them the confidence and financial support needed to carry on with their work.

As we look back to all we have accomplished beyond this unprecedented year, here is the highlight of our India work, which spanned three key areas:

Elevating quality journalism

Supporting newsrooms in delivering quality reporting sits at the heart of the GNI’s mission, and our work in India is deeply rooted in supporting editorial talent, especially in the fight against misinformation. In June 2018, we launched the GNI India Training Network, in partnership with BoomLive, DataLeads and Internews. The program has trained over 20,000 Indian journalists trained in-person or via virtual live workshops in 10 languages, touching 1,000+ news organizations and 700+ universities.

These skills were especially critical in providing quality information to Indian voters during the 2019 election. And it is why we also supported the launch of PollCheck, a pan-India training series on online verification and fact-checking, journalist digital safety and security, YouTube for elections coverage and data visualization for elections.

But it’s not enough to arm the journalists with the right skills - citizens need to be trained, too. Having the skills to assess and validate information is key to preventing the spread of misinformation online. That’s why we provided a US$1 million grant to support FactShala, a first-of-its-kind news literacy program focused on first-time internet users in non-metro cities in India. 250 journalists, fact checkers, academics and NGO workers are rolling out a media literacy curriculum in 7 Indian languages to help internet users assess online information.

Empowering sustainable business growth

Readers’ consumption habits have changed, and media have had to adapt to this ever-evolving environment. To reach new audiences, media have to play with new content formats, and we’re here to help. Just recently, we brought visual and immersive Web Stories to Discover, which helps users find some of the best visual content from around the web. Last year, we contributed to helping Indian media better understand readers by launching Question Hub, a tool where we provide users’ unanswered questions to publishers, so they can use these insights to create richer, better content for their audience.

We provide free tools that the media are able to use to boost reader engagement -- and Dainik Jagran did just that using Realtime Consumer Insights. They used the tool to monitor Google Trends and Twitter conversations during the 2019 general elections. The tool helped their newsroom understand voter questions about the political race, prioritize covering and promoting the news stories that mattered most to their audience and build loyalty with readers over time. Those strategies resulted in a 450 percent boost in traffic, 180 percent increase in the time readers spent on their site and 300 percent growth in ad revenue on election day.

We also partner with media on tailored solutions, such as with the Economic Times Prime to implement Subscribe with Google. This solution makes it easier for readers to subscribe to premium content online, and retain access through platforms, to ensure a seamless experience. We are in discussions to roll this feature out to more publications in India.

We also work with Indian media through participation in regional GNI programs, whose lessons are then shared to help more publishers. Recently, The Hindu and Bloomberg Quint were selected as part of GNI APAC Subscription Lab, a program to help news publishers strengthen digital subscriptions capabilities and grow reader revenue.

Empowering newsrooms through innovation

Finally, while the media may face many challenges today, continuous innovation should be front and center -- and we have seen the innovative spirit through our interactions with Malaysian publications and reporters. Last year, two journalists from and The News Minute were chosen as part of the 12 Fellows for the Google News Initiative (GNI) Newsroom Leadership Program, a collaboration between GNI and the Columbia School of Journalism, to develop the business and product expertise of emerging newsroom leaders from the Asia Pacific region. The journalists were chosen among hundreds of applicants from across the region, evaluated on the quality and potential of their proposed projects.

Between our GNI APAC Innovation Challenges and GNI YouTube Innovation Funding, programs to fund projects that inject new ideas into the news industry, we awarded a total of 16 Indian media outlets. With the funding, Khabar Lahariya has created a new subscription model around a video series about young people in rural India. Meanwhile, Factly used digital video to make complex government policies and processes accessible to a broad audience, which resulted in a 50% increase in watchtime, and NDTV aligned TV and digital video to drive platform interactivity and audience engagement - driving a 150%+ increase in engagement metrics.

What’s next

We also recently launched the GNI Digital Growth Program in the region, which has been designed with industry experts and news publishers across the world to help small and medium sized news organizations grow their digital businesses. We invite Indian media to course through a range of free playbooks, interactive exercises, digital workshops and labs.

As the world grapples with the implications of the pandemic on society and businesses, the significance of quality journalism has never been greater and we are committed to leveraging the power of technology to support it and help it reach wider audiences.