Arun Venkataraman of Google’s Global Partnership Solutions explained that the Google News Initiative was launched globally about a year and a half ago with a purpose to help build a stronger future for journalism during this critical time for the news industry.

Speaking at the INMA Conference de Medios Latinoamerica, Venkataraman said: “There are three pillars that we’re focused on: elevating quality journalism, evolving business models and developing new business models for sustainable journalism, and then empowering news organisations with technological innovations.”

To make that commitment work over the course of three years, Google has chosen to invest US$300 million U.S. dollars into the industry to bring those three objectives to life.

“Google has been working with brands in Latin America for a long time as a result of its business relationships,” Venkataraman said. “But we’ve really made an effort to bring the Google News Initiative to life in Latin America, and we’ve done that in a few ways this year.”

He went on to describe two of those endeavors:

  • An innovation challenge was launched to invite publishers across the industry to apply for innovation grants to fund projects to boost innovation in their newsrooms or the industry in general.
  • Several labs, such as a subscriptions lab and a membership lab, to test hypotheses on what those future business models will look like in Latin America.

“I think one of the things we recognise is that the shift to digital is a prime concern for news publishers in Latin America, so we are listening to partners and thinking about ways we can work together to address their most salient pain points,” Venkataraman said.

Another area Google is investing in with news media collaborations in Latin America is in fighting misinformation and elevating quality journalism on Google’s platforms.

“There are a number of news publishing ecosystems that we’ve collaborated with the industry on these past couple of years to fight misinformation in the run-up to elections,” he added. One example is an initiative called Comprova, which Google ran in Brasil last year, which helped to debunk more than a hundred fake news stories. Other similar initiatives were launched in Mexico and Argentina.

“I imagine the work to combat misinformation and improve media literacy for vulnerable users in Latin America that work will certainly continue,” Venkataraman said.