Google is not a publisher and should not be regulated as such

Google is not a publisher and should not be regulated as such, says UK Managing Editor

SoEGoogle is not a publisher in the same way that newspapers are and should not be regulated in the same way, its Managing Editor in the UK and Ireland  said today.

Delivering the prestigious Society of Editors’ Lecture at The Tamburlaine Hotel in Cambridge this evening, Ronan Harris said that while the company recognised that it has many responsibilities, it did not believe that it should be regulated in the same way the news industry is.

He said: “We undertake to give you an answer to an infinite number of questions – 15% of which we’ve never seen before – in a fraction of a second. On Youtube we provide a platform on which more than 400 hours of video are uploaded every minute.

“Now think about what a newspaper or a news programme does every day. Whether it’s 100 pages or a 30 minute programme, your products and polished and curated. They have rigorous editorial processes and an editor who is ultimately responsible. They have a beginning and an end…almost the opposite of the open web. If every piece of material on the open web had to be checked and lawyered before we surfaced an answer or showed a video that would – quite simply – break the internet.

“We agree that we have many responsibilities. But, as the FT wrote the other day, we’re clearly not publishers in the same way that newspapers are. “

Speaking as part of the first day of the Society of Editors’ sell-out  ‘Fighting for Real News’ conference, Harris said that Google took its responsibility seriously in relation to the content that it showed online and measures were in place to tackle extremist material on its services.

He said: “I often hear Google referred to as an ‘unregulated wild west” but that’s just not right – it’s based on misunderstandings of who we are and what we do.

“First, that we avoid our responsibilities with regard to controversial content because we can’t be bothered, or because it would hurt our bottom line. On the contrary, a relatively easy and economical thing for us to do would be to take down any content that anyone complained about. The reality is that we’ve employed thousands of people and invested millions of dollars on systems that evaluate every removal request thoughtfully – because we believe that is the right thing to do.”

Harris added that while Google was fundamentally in favour of free speech, it did not support extremist content and, as such, mechanisms were in place such as ‘machine learning’ to identify and remove vast swathes of such material before it reached the consumer.

At present, Google employs teams to evaluate content that has been flagged up to the company as problematic but uses machines to actively root out and remove problematic material.

He said: “We are fundamentally on the side of free speech but we agree, of course, there are limits. Violent extremism and hate speech should have no place on our services. We are doing more every day to tackle these complex issues – through technology, human review and in partnership with governments and NGOs. Last month 83% of the terrorist content we removed was identified by machine learning, without needing the viewer to flag this to us as problematic.”

Harris went on to say that Google considered itself a partner to the news industry and did recognise that it had made mistakes in the past in its relationship with publishers.

He said: “Google and publishers share a common cause.  We both believe in enabling access to information.  At Google, we strongly believe in the power of news to record the truth, hold institutions and businesses to account, and make for a better-informed, freer, more open society.

“We have always seen ourselves as a partner to the news industry. But we accept that we haven’t always got it right.

“In the past we introduced – or cancelled – products in the news space with little warning. We were not as receptive as we might have been to calls to help solve some of the problems that were holding newspapers back online. And we were not well organised in our conversations with publishers – so you didn’t always feel you could rely on us as a partner. We learned our lesson, and today our approach is to engage early and engage often.”

While Google had set up projects such as the Digital News Initiative to support and boost paid content by news publishers, Harris objected to the idea that the company was monopolising advertising revenue away from traditional publishers and that, as well as driving traffic to news websites, it continued to share revenue with publishers.

He said: “The majority of Google’s revenue comes from showing highly relevant ads when you search for a particular term. This form of online advertising has allowed hundreds of thousands of UK businesses, of all sizes, to reach customers around the world at the very moment they’re looking for something.  Search advertising is not a market that news publishers have ever been in.

“Also – and this is important because we haven’t explained it clearly enough in the past – there is no advertising on Google News.  Zero.  Indeed you will rarely see advertising around news cycles in Google Search either.

“In display advertising, Google is a supplier of ad inventory to newspaper websites.  In every deal we do, without exception, the publisher keeps the majority of ad revenue — typically more than two thirds but often more.  In short, we only make money if you’re making money.

“Every year we share billions of pounds in revenue with publishers globally. We also drove more than 10 billion clicks a month to publisher websites — for free — from Google Search and Google News.

Both services are designed to get people off our site and onto the publisher’s so that you can make money from that audience.”

On the subject of tackling fake news, Harris said that Google was working to reduce its prominence online and reiterated the importance of working with the journalism community on fact checking.

He said: “While we can’t prevent fake news being uploaded to the Web, there are certain things we can do – and are doing – to reduce its prominence online, such as cutting off revenue to misrepresentative sites, improving the visibility of high quality content and ensuring our reporting and feedback tools are as effective as they can be.

“We haven’t always got this right but we’re continually working on concrete actions to tackle this complex issue.”

The ‘Fighting for Real News’ conference will continue with the main day of conference sessions at the University of Cambridge’s Clare College tomorrow (Monday 13 November). Speakers include the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, Chris Evans, Editor of the Telegraph and Lionel Barber, Editor of the Financial Times.

The Society of Editors conference is supported by Camelot, which has sponsored the Society of Editors since 2001, United Utilities, Google, BBC News, JTI,  Foot Anstey, PCS, NLA Media Access, Waitrose, Cambridge News, Visit Cambridge and Beyond, Lidl and HoldTheFrontPage.

Read the full text of Ronan’s speech here.

Sustainable Funding Model Needed to Ensure Future of Digital Journalism

Dave Whaley, the Editor of the Oldham Chronicle called for a sustainable funding model for online journalism at the Society of Editors conference today.

He spoke about how currently 90% of the Oldham Chronicle’s revenue derives from its printed papers, and only 10% from online advertising, a model which could threaten the future of the publication.

He said, “If that print revenue starts to decrease, it’ll be hard to fund journalists. You will need to get the revenue from digital to increase”

“It’s about convincing businesses in the town that you have the number of people who will read the stories online. It’s about convincing them to pay.”

Emphasising the potential success of online regional publications, he said, “People will gravitate to certain stories in their area, especially breaking news so there is a capacity to get big numbers, stories that get you 20,000 hits in a few hours.”

He urged the audience at the debate to look for a solution; “We need to fund the democracy of it, if we don’t have local papers in towns and cities in the future then what is replacing it? If it’s digital media of a less credible alternative then we have a problem.”

BBC journalist praises effect of Diversity Fund

A former recipient of the Journalism Diversity Fund has praised the work being done to get people from all backgrounds into journalism and the media.

Gemma-Louise Stevenson, who now works for the BBC, spoke to delegates at the Society of Editors Conference 2016 where praised the fund which was set up by the National Council for the Training of Journalists and the Society of Editors in 2005.

The Fund aims to help a variety of people from those based in working class backgrounds to people with disabilities, helping them target full-time journalistic positions.

Stevenson said that the fund provided those with an interest in the industry with the chance to train in the profession regardless of their financial means or background.

She said: “The Journalism Diversity fund gets more voices in the newsroom. People who traditionally can’t go to university can now get into journalism and that’s the path I’ve taken.

“My advice would be go for the fund- my experience has been 100% positive,” Stevenson added.

The London-based reporter also drew on her own experience with disabilities in the working world, offering advice to youngsters who may be worried about entering the world of journalism.

“A lot of people who do have disabilities worry about their employers and if you need to take time off. But as a matter of fact, they want your voice, they want your work.

“I can’t write with a pen and paper for example. But my employer now has invested in assistive software and they’re so patient about waiting,” Stevenson added.

Mobile Journalism presents “fantastic opportunity” for regional journalists

Mobile journalism presents a “fantastic opportunity” for regional journalists the Society of Editors was told this week.

Addressing delegates at the Society of Editors conference in Carlisle, Catherine Houlihan, the Managing Editor at ITV Border highlighted the need for newspapers to “keep pace with technology” as it develops to equip journalists with video and audio tools in the field.

Speaking as part of a panel session focusing on video content, Houlihan said it would be “foolhardy” to ignore technological progression, identifying social media’s role in modern journalism as “a game-changer”, which has “enhanced the relationship with viewers”.

She said:“The relationship between a regional broadcaster and its viewer is very different from national news.”

She was keen for standards to be maintained despite the need for immediacy in mobile journalism, “The quality of journalism must never be forgotten and that’s accuracy, reliability and tastes and decency.

“Your trustworthiness and brand is your biggest selling point going forward.

“They know what they are getting is true, although we might not be the first to get it out there.”

Evening Standard and Independent announce apprenticeship scheme

A new bursary scheme is being set up by the London Evening Standard.

Managing Editor Doug Wills announced The Editorial Diversity Bursary Scheme at the Society of Editors annual conference. Four Editorial apprenticeships are to be created that will lead to a diploma in journalism.

Apprentices will be given a two-year contract which will include a fast track NCTJ course, in partnership with the UCFB at Wembley Stadium.

They will complete their training at the Evening Standard and the Independent, where they will be embedded into the Editorial operation.

Applicants cannot already hold degree level qualifications or an Advanced Apprenticeship.

The apprenticeships are supported by organisations outside the media industry. Partners include social housing provider, The Peabody Foundation; The Stationers and Newspapermakers Livery Company; the Journalism Diversity Fund, and Goldman-Sachs.

The aim of the scheme is to give young people from the widest ethnic and social backgrounds a chance to work in the media.

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan welcomed the move: “I commend the Evening Standard and Independent’s commitment to promoting equality, diversity and inclusion and I encourage businesses and organisations across London to support this new scheme as much as possible,” he said.

Candidates must have a GCSE in maths and English at a C or above as well as basic PC skills.

The apprenticeship scheme begins in January 2017.

By Emmi Bowles – University of Central Lancashire

Smartphone apps are key to contemporary journalism

Knowing how to use your smartphone is key to producing effective journalistic content in the digital age, according to a Trainer at the BBC Academy.

Speaking at The Society of Editors Conference in Carlisle, Marc Settle, a video journalism expert, spoke about a range of revolutionary mobile video apps.

He stated that knowledge of how to use apps allowed journalists to create effective and exciting content easily and directly via social media.

“Having a range of apps means the [journalistic] potential is huge”, said Settle.

“Journalists simply using their phones to make calls and browse the internet isn’t enough in this day and age.”

Fiona Kinloch from the University of Central Lancashire

BBC’s Mojo expert says phones are the way forward

Marc Settle, Trainer, BBC Academy

The development of mobile journalism provides a vital tool for journalists, a trainer from the BBC Academy has told an audience of the Society of Editors.

Speaking at the Society’s annual conference in Carlisle, Marc Settle, an expert in video journalism told delegates that it was not now uncommon for full interviews and even documentaries filmed solely on a mobile device.

He said: “I don’t think we’ll get to a point where craft cameras will never be used but the gap between smartphones and these cameras is getting very narrow these days.

“News happens outside the office. You can do so much more on your smartphone,” he added.

Considering audiences is also crucial when it comes to using smartphones to gather journalistic footage, said Settle.

“You’ve always got to think about the audience- do they just want good footage?, he added, “If you have a phone, you have it with you all of the time. You can do anything at any moment.

“There is a slight concern that so many people could create content with smartphones that isn’t real but it’s up to editors and journalists to spot the fakes,” Settle concluded.

Verification is key explains Jenni Sargent

Verification of internet sources is an ever-growing issue of importance for journalists, the Society of Editors conference was told this week.

Speaking at the annual conference in Carlisle, the Managing Director of First Draft News spoke of the new challenges that are being faced with the spread of social technology.

First Draft News works to find the best way to search for eyewitness media when a story breaks and provides tips on verification.

Addressing delegates as part of a panel session on newsroom tools and new technologies, Jenni Sargent told delegates that social media has allowed anybody to post stories making the issue of verification of increasing importance with online sources.

Sargent said: “At no point do we want to sit in judgement and say this is something you need to be careful of and you need to make sure you’re doing it right.”

Instead the organisations wants journalists and editors to ”understand who your sources are, where these images and videos have come from.”

Emmi Bowles – University of Central Lancashire

New practices in the Press Association newsroom

Peter Clifton, editor of the Press Association, started the second day of the conference in the Newsroom Tools and New Technologies workshop.

Peter discussed how the Press Association is evolving in terms of mobile journalism, data journalism and social media.

New training at the Press Association (PA) sees journalists across all platforms become familiar with the same social media methods.

Integration of various PA social network sites is proving more beneficial and successful, making it a better experience for news audiences.

PA has evolved the way it creates content in other ways, such as having subtitles on video content so viewers are able to consume news without having the sound on.

PA has also changed the way it communicated with it’s customers by using one non-public facing site to showcase the majority of their content in one place.

This is set to increase as well, according to Peter, “Within the next couple of months or so, all of our content will be showcased for our customers.”

Data journalism has also become a more significant form of telling news, with more reporters using data as a way of finding stories.

Peter said, “Data journalism is probably the richest source of investigative journalism we have.

Some of the best coverage that we have got has been from that data journalism.”

PA will continue to hold regular meetings to review and discuss the benefits, or lack thereof, of using these tools to craft and tell stories.

Laura Creighton



SoE conference branded overwhelming success by PR driving force Magstar

Behind every event there is always a team running things in the background, often without attendees even realising.

And at the annual Society of Editors Conference 2016, this was no different. Running and managing the event was back in the hands of the Magstar team, who were established in Cambridge back in 2001.

It’s been a busy couple of days in Carlisle and the work gone into maintaining the event, which saw over 200 people pass through the doors of the Halston hotel, has been unbelievable.

And Olivia Disley-Stevens, who is the Event Coordinator at Magstar has been impressed by just how well the event has gone yet again.

She said: “We’re a small team and we all chip in together but this year, the event has gone extremely well.

“We’ve had great help from everyone at the hotel, the delegates and the editors. We’re looking forward to next year and we always want to be bigger and better than the year before,” she added.

Magstar have now assisted the Society for over ten years now and there is a happy, healthy and productive relationship blossoming between the two parties, something Disley-Steven’s thinks is vital to the continued success of the event.

“We’ve worked with the Society for over ten years now and we work with them on their marketing and website as well.

“There’s now a friendship between us and the Society and it’s a nice thing to be able to do year-after-year and I thoroughly believe this relationship will carry on,” she said.

By Hayden Atkins