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Business

Google launches digital news project in Europe

Technology giant Google and a host of European media outlets have agreed on a partnership aimed at improving the publishers' finances and supporting the news industry. Google pledges millions of euros for the initiative.

The Digital News Initiative launched on Tuesday is a partnership between Google and eight European news publishers aimed at supporting quality and innovative journalism.

The project brings together German media outlets Die Zeit and FAZ, Les Echos in France, UK's the Financial Times and The Guardian, as well as NRC Media in the Netherlands, Spain's El Pais and La Stampa in Italy.

Carlo D'Asaro Biondo, head of Google's strategic relationships in Europe, said in a statement that the partners would focus on product development, innovation as well as training and research, while setting up a working group to "increase revenue, traffic and audience engagement."

As part of the initiative, Google will spend around 150 million euros ($160 million) on various digital projects over the next three years.

'Just the beginning'

"Through the Digital News Initiative, Google will work hand in hand with news publishers and journalism organizations to help develop more sustainable models for news," said D'Asaro Biondo, noting that this was "just the beginning", with other media outlets to be invited to join the effort.

Some publishers such as Germany's Axel Springer and Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, however, have stayed away from the venture.

But welcoming the initiative, Tony Danker, international director of Guardian news and media, said the test of the initiative's success was "whether it leads to meaningful change to ensure journalism flourishes in the digital age."

The move by Google follows the company's

recent decision

to change the way it will handle searches from mobile devices. The firm's search algorithm now gives higher priority to sites that optimize their content for small screen mobile devices.

The new partnership also comes at a time when Google finds itself in the midst of mounting criticism in Europe.

The European Commission recently announced it was probing the Mountain View-based firm for

alleged anti-competitive practices

and distortions in its search results. Google faces fines of up to $6.6 billion if the charges are proven. Google, however, has strongly rejected the accusations.

sri/uhe (AFP, Reuters)

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