Google makes $25m bet on future of video journalism on YouTube

10 Jul 2018

Image: Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

Through YouTube, Google is helping journalism thrive as a vital step in combating the spread of fake news and conspiracy theories.

Google is setting aside $25m to support video journalism as part of a concerted effort to improve the quality of news and information on YouTube.

The goal is to ensure that authoritative news sources and better storytelling appear at the top for users of the video platform, which is the second-biggest search engine on the planet after Google itself.

Google has established a working group with news organisations and experts around the world to improve the news experience and support quality journalism. News organisations including Vox Media, Jovem Pan and India Today are early members of the working group.

The internet giant said it aims to provide funding across 20 global markets to support news organisations to build sustainable video operations.

“Provided on an application basis to news organisations of all types, these grants will enable our partners to build key capabilities, train staff on video best practices, enhance production facilities and develop formats optimised for online video,” said chief product officer Neal Mohan and chief business officer Robert Kyncl of Google.

“We’re significantly expanding our team focused on supporting news publishers. These specialists will be based around the world and support partners with training and best practices in formats, audience development, day-to-day platform operations and sophisticated technical integrations.”

Authoritative sources

The core of what Google is doing is, in effect, a response to the fake-news epidemic and the role that YouTube has found itself playing in the proliferation of conspiracy theory videos.

The video platform moved in recent months to curtail videos that appeared to be promoting the use of guns.

It is also a bet on the future role of video in journalism. Mohan and Kyncl pointed out that journalists write articles first to break news instead of producing videos as the process takes time. They want to change this.

“In the coming weeks in the US, we will start providing a short preview of news articles in search results on YouTube that link to the full article during the initial hours of a major news event, along with a reminder that breaking and developing news can rapidly change.”

Not only that, but they also want to make it easier to find quality news.

From today (10 July), new Top News and Breaking News shelves will appear on the YouTube homepage in 17 countries including Ireland, the US, the UK, France, Italy, Japan, India, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Nigeria and more.

“We will double that number in the coming months,” they promised.

Google also plans to showcase more local news and has begun testing features around the US, making it easy to access local news in the living room, YouTube’s fastest-growing screen.

“So far, local news has seen strong engagement, and we will be expanding it to dozens more markets like Cincinnati, Las Vegas and Kansas City.”

More sources of credible information

Google said it plans to enrich the information experience on YouTube by posting more information from third parties such as Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica alongside videos on historical and scientific topics, including the moon landing, for example.

The internet giant also plans to invest more in digital literacy education.

Along with the Google News Initiative and, it has teamed up with the Poynter Institute, Stanford University, Local Media Association and the National Association for Media Literacy Education to support MediaWise, a US-based initiative designed to equip 1m teens with digital literacy skills.

YouTube content creators, including John Green, Ingrid Nilsen and Mark Watson, will be working with MediaWise to bring awareness to digital literacy and help educate with teens.

“We remain committed to working with the journalism community to build a more sustainable video ecosystem for news organisations,” Mohan and Kyncl said.

“We know there is a lot of work to do, but we’re eager to provide a better experience to users who come to YouTube every day to learn more about what is happening in the world from a diversity of sources.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years