Liberal Party press releases make a splash on Google News

Google News results for the search “Labor position nuclear”.

Google News results for the search “Labor position nuclear”.Credit: Calum Jaspan

On its support page, Google says it uses “automated systems” to compile its news index, saying it “algorithmically discovers news content through search technologies”.

Google plays a key role in the news ecosystem in Australia and globally. Google Search and News link people to publishers’ websites more than 24 billion times each month, the company says.

Its algorithm can be a deciding factor in a website’s traffic and its ability to drive revenue through advertising and subscriptions.

In 2021, the federal government implemented the news media bargaining code as a tool to bridge the power imbalance between digital platforms and news publishers.

Google says it is one of the world’s biggest financial supporters of journalism. In Australia, it directly contributes more than $135 million to news organisations through deals agreed as part of the bargaining code per year.

Loading

At the start of March, Meta said it would not sign new deals with publishers when they expire later this year in a blow to the industry. The government can designate Meta under the code, however is yet to do so.

Conversely, Google says it is in the process of renegotiating the three-year commercial deals it signed in 2021.

According to web analytics company Similarweb, social media platforms such as Facebook and X (previously Twitter) have been tapering off news links since 2020. Referrals to news websites almost halved across the three years to October.

Harvard University’s Nieman Lab for Journalism reported in February that Google has tested removing its News tab from search results.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is an online practice that allows publishers to target keywords that are relevant to a story in order to attain a higher ranking in Google’s search engine result pages.

New trial versions of Google Search use its AI bot Bard to present a summary response to a query, as opposed to links to relevant news sites. Google says the features can help users distil complex information into easy-to-digest formats. The features are yet to be fully rolled out across Google Search.

A spokesperson for Communications Minister Michelle Rowland also declined to comment, saying “Google is best placed to explain how content surfaces on its news product”.

The Australian Media and Communications Authority, which oversees the code for misinformation and disinformation was contacted for comment.

link