The news business is not for the faint-hearted. Just ask any of India’s major media houses. Over the past few years some of India’s biggest media houses have laid off staff en masse laid off staff en masse The Ken Hard times at The Hindu Read more , shut down various products, and even closed entire bureaus closed entire bureaus Newslaundry Times of India shuts editions, layoffs begin amid uncertainty Read more  as they struggle to remain viable.

The pandemic only added fuel to an already raging fire. It was in the midst of this maelstrom that Google approached these large media houses—the likes of The Indian Express, Hindustan Times, etc.—with a proposition that would line their pockets with a small fortune each year for a three-year period. Having already suffered through the first wave of the pandemic, they didn’t need much convincing.

Google’s offer was simple yet novel. It was unveiling a new feature, News Showcase. Showcase granted the publications a dedicated feed for their news content within the Google News platform, and they would get an annual payout for this. For subscription-based organisations, Google even agreed to pay to unlock some paywalled content, in what it called ‘extended access’.

Media houses lined up to sign on the dotted line. The chance to secure multi-crore deals for their content rather than the trickle of digital ad revenue they had grown accustomed to was a rare blessing in troubled times.

All of that changed overnight, courtesy of breaking news from 8,000 kilometres away in Australia.

In mid-February, after months of wrangling with the government, Google was forced into striking individual deals with Australian news publishers—a first in the industry. A key part of these deals was the News Showcase partnerships, in addition to components like ‘extended access’ and creating web stories web stories Google Web Stories Web Stories by Google is a web-based version of the popular Stories format, which let publishers package their stories using multimedia. for Google.

When the dust had settled, media tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp had reportedly reportedly PressGazette Google and Facebook's deals with publishers: What we know so far Read more secured a three-year deal worth between US$70-100 million per annum.


Munsif Vengattil

Munsif keeps a tab on what Big Tech has been up to in India and all things OTT. He was with Reuters previously, where he wrote investigative pieces on Facebook’s content moderation operations and WhatsApp’s troubles in the run-up to India’s national elections. If you want to talk to Munsif about journalism, tech policy or his love for seekh kebabs, write to him at his first name

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