Google DNl Summit: The Biggest Trends and Innovations in Journalism

Google DNI Post Edenspiekermann

Digital News Initiative (DNI) is a partnership between Google and publishers in Europe to support high quality journalism through technology and innovation. DNI offers a Fund to foster innovation in publishing industry where Edenspiekermann has successfully raised a second round of this Fund last year for our very own product POST. Therefore Anna Maria, Product Owner here at Edenspiekermann, got invited to take part in the annual Google DNI Summit in Amsterdam. Find out what is trending for journalism in the next few months.

Pushing the publishing and news industry forward

There were two main, equally important, reasons to attend the Summit in Amsterdam. The first one was to meet other recipients of the Fund. We all got awarded with the funding due to the commitment and passion for reaching one goal - pushing the publishing and news industry forward. Therefore, it’s very important to see what others are working on, learn what challenges they have and exchange on solutions to problems which more often than not turn out to be common across the whole industry. Exchange and finding synergies is definitely one of the most important added values of attending the Summit.

The second reason is the general learning on newest trends and technology innovations in publishing. DNI is working very hard on fulfilling their mission, therefore there were quite a few innovations, broadly discussed during the Summit that we all should keep an eye on.

The challenges most publishers still face today

A big inspiration on the thought level came from the first panel ran by Ulrik Haagerup from the Constructive Institute, whichset the stage for the whole day. It was a very strong opening panel, positioning technology and innovation as a source of much needed transformation into a high quality, constructive and most importantly trustworthy journalism of tomorrow.

The challenges of today were identified as fast, very frequent publications pushing alternative facts, low quality, negative and controversy oriented content in order to gain high numbers of clicks which nowadays still act as key KPIs for advertisers. As most of the publishers still depend these days on advertising income for their online outlets, the goal was set to search for and establish not only independent trust check mechanisms but also alternative business models for publishers. That way they can focus online on what they already do best in print - producing high quality and trustworthy content without chasing controversy driven clicks.

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The 3 biggest industry trends

From the technology and innovation perspective, there are three big trends to keep an eye on.

When I look ahead to where computing is heading, it’s clear to me that we are evolving from a mobile-first to an AI-first worldSundar Pichai, Google CEO

1. From mobile first to AI first

The first trend is very relevant to the core idea of our own product POST and is described as shifting from mobile first to AI first world. Matt Feigel from Google Cloud had a great speech about where and how to start experimenting with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, and how this trend can be applied and tested in digital newsroom. According to him, all you need is a C-level sponsor inside your organisation, a defined machine learning use case, data and interdisciplinary team of data scientists, and engineers dedicated to the project. He revealed some success cases and step by step guides on how to start experimenting but finished off with reminding us that Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are not the goals by itself. They are the means and tools to achieve them. So as always, vision and business value comes first.

2. Voice first, touch secondary

Second trend to keep an eye on for journalism are "voice first and touch secondary" devices. Google presented functionality and capability of their relatively new product - Google Assistant. Its Product Managers from Palo Alto, made a great demo introducing its possible use cases for publishers. News briefings via Google Assistant were broadly discussed but current lack of data on market penetration and usage caused some heated debates among Summit participants. Due to lack of relevant data, publishers struggle to evaluate the ROI of this distribution channel which slows down the adaptation process for publishers. Looking forward to see how that develops.

3. Subscription based models

Lastly, subscriptions by Google. Summit revealed interesting explorations in that area - James Albrecht, Director of Product Management of Google, presented some early prototypes of what’s being worked on in that area. The big vision behind this initiative is to encourage constructive journalism by pushing subscription based portals as trustworthy sources of information. Google would achieve that by introducing easy to use subscription manager within Google Play. This means the ability to buy a subscription to participating news portals with your existing Google Play account and easy management of your subscriptions in one place. This exploration circulates around the hypothesis that people would pay for online news they trust and respect. The goal then is to make it the industry standard, so that publishers can shift entirely from advertising based models to subscription based models. The value of that shift relies on the secondary hypothesis - subscription models encourage higher quality and constructive journalism. To close the loop, it’s worth to mention that Google would push the sources that users are paying for, up in the search results which would make the shift to subscription based model even more attractive for the publishers. Really curious to see how it develops.

Beside the above trends, it was great to see further developments of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). The AMP stories launched early last week look like a fantastic storytelling formats for publishers. Looking forward to try them out on one of Edenspiekermann’s upcoming projects.

In short, Google DNI Summit was a day of exchange and inspiration. Was great to see what is up with the new industry trends and get a sneak peek into some of Google’s early explorations, especially the path toward constructive journalism. I’m personally glad to see that Re-gaining trust and alternative business models for publishers are becoming such an important topic.