TORONTO — Google says it will pay publishers around the world about US$1 billion over the next three years for use of their content, the company's latest effort to relax tensions over its share of advertising sales that help fund the news industry.
The California-based company said Thursday that it has signed agreements for its news partnership program with nearly 200 publications in the U.K., Australia, Germany, Brazil, Argentina and Canada.
“This financial commitment — our biggest to date — will pay publishers to create and curate high-quality content for a different kind of online news experience," CEO Sundar Pichai said in a blog post.
A similar message was posted on Google Canada's blog post, which identified initial two publishing partners — Village Media of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and Narcity Media of Toronto, both primarily online publishers.
Google Canada said Thursday that it is still negotiating with other publishers and the new product won't be accessible in Canada until there's a "critical mass" of content.
The chairman of News Media Canada, which represents newspapers and digital-native news outlets of various sizes, said Google had taken a step in the right direction.
"It remains to be seen what the details are and, of course, that's very important," said Bob Cox, who is publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press and chairman of News Media Canada.
"News publishers believe their content has a certain value and we'll have to see what value Google puts on it."
For its part, Google has said previously that it recognizes the content has value to attract audiences but so does its ability to direct audiences and advertizers to publishers.
Daniel Bernhard, executive director for Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, said that US$333 million per year for the entire world is a small amount given the value of the content.
"These payments should not be optional and Google cannot be allowed to set the price unilaterally," Bernhard said in an email statement.
The Trudeau government said last week that it wants to change how the tech giants do business in Canada. It mentioned changes to corporate taxes as well as payments to Canadian creators, producers and distributors.
Google's News Showcase, launched Thursday in Brazil and Germany, features story panels that let publishers package stories with features like timelines.
It will appear first on Google News on smartphones using's Google's Android operating system, then phones using Apple iOS, before it is rolled out to Google Discover and Search.
The publications that have signed up include Germany's Der Spiegel and Stern and Brazil's Folha de S.Paulo.
The funding builds on a news licensing program announced by Google in June, as it seeks to defuse tensions with the beleaguered news industry.
But the European Publishers Council said Thursday that Google moved to stave off legislation and government action.
“Many are quite cynical about Google's perceived strategy,” said Angela Mills Wade, executive director of the council.
The council's members include German publisher Axel Springer and the British unit of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., which have been fighting a years-long battle to get the tech giants to pay for news stories appearing on their platforms.
The pressure has been rising in a number of countries.
Australia's government, which appears further ahead than Canada in its legislative agenda, is drafting a law to make Facebook and Google pay the country's media companies for the news content they use by early October. Facebook has responded by threatening to block Australian news content rather than pay for it.
In France, Google has refused to show snippets of some stories as it fights government demands for license fees to publishers, as required by a recent European Union directive.
— with files from CP's David Paddon in Toronto and AP's Kelvin Chan in London, England.
The Canadian Press