Toronto Star

Torstar, Google sign news deal

New service offering free articles aims to drive traffic to publishers’ sites

- JOSH RUBIN BUSINESS REPORTER

Torstar, the company that publishes the Toronto Star, is signing on to a news partnershi­p with global search giant Google.

Google News Showcase, which launches Wednesday in Canada, is a new service designed to give news from trusted publishers a higher profile and help drive traffic back to the publishers’ websites.

News Showcase will include select stories from partner publishers each day, including some that are only available to subscriber­s on the publishers’ own websites. The stories are chosen and packaged by publishers, ensuring editorial control remains with the publicatio­ns.

“Quality, fact-checked journalism is a vital way to connect and inform people, and a crucial tool against misinforma­tion. News Showcase will bring more of our award-winning local and national reporting to Canadians, and the world,” said Jordan Bitove, Toronto Star publisher and Torstar co-owner. “It’s an investment into the future of our newsrooms, our top-quality journalism and the future of news.”

In addition to Torstar, two other publishers — Le Devoir and Les Coops de l’informatio­n — are joining forces with Google on Wednesday. Previously announced partners include Black Press Media, Glacier Media, the Globe and Mail, Métro Média, Narcity Media, SaltWire Network, Village Media and Winnipeg Free Press.

The move comes at a crucial time for both the media and tech industries. The media has seen its traditiona­l business model collapsing, with advertisin­g revenue plunging for the last two decades, and subscripti­on revenue not making up the shortfall.

Tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon, meanwhile, have faced increasing calls for regulation amidst their market domination.

Torstar publishes six daily newspapers, more than 70 weekly publicatio­ns, as well as several specialty websites including Wheels.ca and TheKit.ca. Les Coop de l’informatio­n publishes six daily French-language newspapers in Quebec and eastern Ontario.

“Enabling more audiences to connect with content from our six publicatio­ns is an essential step in our ongoing digital growth. Ultimately, this new partnershi­p with Google will help us produce even more relevant and useful content to the benefit of our communitie­s,” said Stéphane Lavallée, managing director of Les Coops de l’informatio­n.

Publishers receive a set monthly fee for use of their articles, which are given more prominence than a simple link to a headline. Neither the amount of the monthly fee nor length of the agreement signed by Torstar was disclosed.

The hope, said Google executive Brad Bender, is to help drive more readers to publishers’ own websites, where they can then become subscriber­s.

“That is a big driver of the program,” said Bender, Google’s vice-president of product management for news. Bender said Google News Showcase was developed in collaborat­ion with publishers themselves.

Unlike Apple News Plus, which charges a subscripti­on fee for access to its service, Bender said Google News Showcase will be free to users. That’s something Google has no intention of changing, Bender added.

“It’s really not in our plans,” Bender said.

Google News Showcase is available in more than a dozen countries around the world, and includes partnershi­ps with more than 1,000 publicatio­ns. It’s part of a $1-billion (U.S.) investment in the global journalism industry by Google.

As part of that investment, Google will be training 5,000 Canadian journalist­s over the next three years on strengthen­ing their digital news skills. That is on top of the 1,000 the company says it has already trained.

In 2020, Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. had $40.2 billion (U.S.) in profits from $182.5 billion in revenue, up from $34.3 billion and $161.4 billion in 2019.

 ?? ALAIN JOCARD AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES FILE PHOTO ?? Google News Showcase is a new service designed to give news from trusted publishers a higher profile and help drive traffic back to the publishers’ websites.
ALAIN JOCARD AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES FILE PHOTO Google News Showcase is a new service designed to give news from trusted publishers a higher profile and help drive traffic back to the publishers’ websites.

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