Apr 28, 2015 · 1 minute

Google has created a $163 million fund to "support high quality journalism through technology and innovation" after it spent years tussling with European publishers over the Google News aggregation service's effect on the industry.

The fund is part of the Digital News Initiative the company formed with the Financial Times, the European Journalism Centre, and others to fund training initiatives, research, and other efforts important to the changing mediascape.

Founding the DNI is likely part of Google's efforts to assuage criticism in Europe, where it is currently facing antitrust charges and has been accused of misusing publishers' content in Google News, among other complaints.

It's also a marked departure from Google's previous approach to handling publishers' complaints about Google News. As the Wall Street Journal writes:

In the last few years, Google has faced challenges from European newspapers over the search giant’s use of headlines and other content on its Google News site. Google has refused to pay publishers for the content, instead choosing to forego linking to stories or content. After seeing a drop in traffic, publishers often relent.
The BBC notes that some publishers haven't signed on to the DNI, perhaps because they aren't convinced Google is operating in good faith, or because they believe the company will be given too much control over publishers' offerings.

Yet it's hard to deny that joining the DNI will benefit publishers in many ways. Besides the funding, the assistance with research, and other efforts, the DNI also offers publishers access to the service most trusted by many news readers.

As I reported in January:

Search engines are now more trusted news sources than traditional publications, social media, and other information discovery tools, according to an Edelman survey of some 27,000 people expected to be discussed at the World Economic Forum later this week.

There are two ways to interpret the survey’s findings: the optimistic take is that readers are being exposed to news from a variety of sources because they skim through search pages; the pessimistic take is that search engines have too much control over information. Many have compared the DNI's founding to Google offering publishers an olive branch. Given the amount of trust people place in the company, combined with everything else Google's offering, it might be more accurate to say that it went ahead and planted a whole orchard of olive trees.

[illustrationby Brad Jonas]