Alphabet Inc.’s Google has announced that it will start paying select media outlets to showcase “curated content” on its news app as compensation to the industry that has alleged that the search engine and other tech giants have unfairly used content for years.

Google has allocated more than $1 billion for the first three years of the initiative and could extend it beyond that, the company said in a statement. Through the deal, the search giant will pay publishers to “provide blurbs for its news app and to give readers free access to certain paywalled articles”.

The ‘Google News Showcase’, which was launched today (Thursday) in Brazil and Germany, will display branded story panels put together by partner publishers and letting them to highlight their content using timelines, bullets, and related news content. These panels will also link back to the news content publisher’s website, Google has said.

Brad Bender, Vice-President, Google.

Google and Facebook Inc. have lately faced considerable flak and heat from statutory regulators around the world who have from time to time asked the two tech and content giants to pay for the rights to host news articles. Publishers reason that it’s their journalism that attracts users to those platforms even as the two near-monopolists take home most of the online ad dollars. Thursday’s launch advances a licencing initiative that Google had announced in June to “pay publishers for high-quality content”.

“Google News Showcase lets publishers curate stories on the news that matters, develop deeper relationships with readers, and provides a new revenue stream for essential reporting,” said Brad Bender, a Google Vice-President.

Over 200 publications in Germany, Britain, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, and Australia have signed up to News Showcase with more markets to come, Google added.

Stefan Ottlitz, Head of Product Development, Der Spiegel.

However, the funding wouldn’t cover all news organizations also because “not all publishers produce the volume and type of content necessary for this product”, said Bender. Google will also choose who to partner with on a market-by-market basis, with focus on newspapers or sources with established audiences and reader cred besides major local and regional news outlets, Bender said.

There will be a licencing charge that will be akin to a flat fee to be paid over a period of time and will be negotiated basis the amount of content the publisher supplies, Google said.

Angela Mills Wade, Executive Director, European Publishers Council.

Reacting to the development, Stefan Ottlitz, Head of Product Development, Der Spiegel, said, “With News Showcase and the new integration of editorial content of media like Der Spiegel, Google shows that they are serious about supporting quality journalism in Germany.”

However, Google’s programme has also met with some scepticism. “By launching a product, they can dictate terms and conditions, undermine legislation designed to create conditions for a fair negotiation, while claiming they are helping to fund news production,” observed Angela Mills Wade, Executive Director of the European Publishers Council, referring to an EU copyright directive that allows news outlets to seek payment from internet sites that display their articles.

Google also announced that while News Showcase will first launch on its Android app and later on iOS, Discover, and search services, its content won’t get any “preferential ranking or display” in the app or search results.