Interview with Madhav Chinnappa, Google’s head of news partnerships

The rise of the internet and technological developments have led publishers to rethink the way they approach journalism, both in terms of reporting and distribution of news. Is a mutually beneficial relationship between platforms like Google and news publishers feasible?

The media giant has been in the European spotlight in recent months, due to the European Union’s plans to reform copyright laws, which would entail Google paying publishers a fee when it displays their content in search results. The system has already been implemented by France in 2013, with Google paying a rate of €60 million and it quickly followed in Spain.

Marco Pratellesi of L’Espresso argued that the case is not about Google vs news publishers, but rather Google vs Facebook or even vs Twitter. Pratellesi said that the strength of these companies is “the knowledge they have of their users”.

“Rather than an alliance, it would be good to talk about possible collaborations between publishers and new distribution platforms”, said Mario Calabresi, editor-in-chief of La Stampa. He added that the online versions of newspapers “can’t survive just in order to share the links of their own articles”.

Also speaking on the panel was Mathew Ingram, formerly of Gigaom and now senior writer at Fortune. He believes that publishers should focus on the role that social networks are playing as delivery platforms, especially on mobile, but even if readers reach an article through Google, “if they don’t stay on your website after clicking the link, the problem is not Google, it’s the quality of the news organisation”.

Madhav Chinnappa, head of news partnerships at Google, mentioned his concern regarding the media ecosystem and admitted that Google’s primary purpose as a company is not that of being in the media and publishing industry. However, he pointed out that Facebook is a strong influence in this sector and that even Google might become an irrelevant presence among publishers.

In this interview, Chinnappa spoke about what Google is doing to support publishers, and shared his views on the possibility of Google creating an algorithm that would focus on promoting publishers’ original reporting.