Google said Wednesday it will launch an emergency fund to help local news outlets struggling to maintain operations in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
The internet giant gave no specific figure for its fund, but said it would offer grants ranging from the “low thousands of dollars” for the smallest operations to “low tens of thousands for larger newsrooms.”
The move comes with the media sector facing deep cutbacks resulting from the global consumer lockdown, an intense economic slump, and retrenchment in advertising revenues that many news outlets depend on.
“Local news is a vital resource for keeping people and communities connected in the best of times,” Google News vice president Richard Gingras said in a statement.
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“Today, it plays an even greater function in reporting on local lockdowns or shelter at home orders, school and park closures, and data about how COVID-19 is affecting daily life.” Gingras said the fund will open to outlets “producing original news for local communities during this time of crisis,” with applications due by April 29.
“At the end of the process, we’ll announce who has received funding and how publishers are spending the money,” he said.
“We believe it is important to do what we can to alleviate the financial pressures on newsrooms and will continue to look at other ways to help with more to announce soon.” The New York Times has estimated that news outlets have cut 28,000 jobs as a result of the health crisis and subsequent economic impact.
Other outlets have furloughed journalists or announced pay cuts.
Facebook on March 30 said it was donating 100 million to support news organizations globally hurting from the coronavirus pandemic. This includes 25 million in grants and ramped up ad spending by the social media giant.
In recent months Facebook and Google have stepped up efforts to help news organisations, following criticism that their dominance of online advertising has made it difficult for media to profit from digital operations.