YouTube has announced plans to invest $25m to “support the future of news in online video, and product features we’ve been working on to improve the news experience on YouTube”.
The money will be spent on establishing a working group with news organisations to “help us develop new product features, improve the news experience on YouTube, and tackle emerging challenges”; on bulking up its team supporting news publishers who are using YouTube; and on ‘innovation funding’ for news companies in around 20 countries.
“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”.
At a time when ‘fake news’ and online awfulness continues to make headlines, this can be seen as YouTube’s equivalent of what Facebook has been doing to help authoritative news sources do a better job of reaching internet users through its algorithms. However, expect YouTube’s critics within the music industry to be less happy at the prospect of more Google funding for news organisations. Why? In the run-up to the European Parliament’s vote last week on the new European Copyright Directive, a Google exec’s letter to news organisations who’d taken funding from the company’s Google News Initiative (GNI) was interpreted as encouraging them to support its view on how MEPs should vote.
With another round of lobbying to come in Europe, the prospect of news organisations taking funding from YouTube while covering the copyright debate impartially is sure to attract more criticism from the rightsholder community – even though many will also recognise the responsibility of a platform like YouTube to be tackling the challenges of fake news.