Mediahuis – with titles like De Standaard, NRC, Telegraaf and De Limburger one of the larger publishers in the Low Countries – is among the hundreds of European media companies that have received innovation money from Google in recent years. Nevertheless, the attendants at the “Meeting of Neighbours” of Dutch and Flemish media people, last Tuesday in Brussels, were somewhat surprised by the praise that Mediahuis CEO Gert Ysebaert gave Google Digital News Initiative (DNI). In general, European publishers are quite critical of the company that, on the one hand, through search, offers them a lot of website visitors, but on the other hand is also said to have largely taken over the advertising market from the legacy publishers.
“I think it’s an example of the kind of innovation that we should actually have invented ourselves”
Not only because of the money he and his colleagues received but also because of the system it was able to build, Ysebaert looks at Google DNI with some jealousy. “Google is obviously succeeding in bringing together different media companies and ensuring that everything is shared across Europe through lots of different initiatives so that a whole network could be created around it. I think it’s an example of the kind of innovation that we should actually have invented ourselves, starting in the Dutch language area, but preferably all over Europe.”
Ysebaert calls it “a bit double” to find out that his Mediahuis, on the one hand, collaborates well with Google, but that on the other hand, that same party, along with Facebook, is simultaneously disrupting his entire business. “To find out that exactly this company has come up with such a good initiative, while we are not capable of it, that’s not just the fault of politicians, it’s also our whole industry’s failure.”
Ysebaert is not impressed by the 300,000 euros that the Flemish media minister Sven Gatz has promised the news industry. “A good initiative, no doubt about that, but it remains in the margin when you look at what’s happening internationally.” Google DNI has devoted 150 million euros divided into six rounds in three years. The registration for round 4 opens next week.
Disclosure: Bart Brouwers is member of DNI Council.