By Zafira Anwar

Speaking at WAN-IFRA’s recent Digital Media Asia conference, Google News Initiative (GNI) APAC News and Publishing Lead Fazal Ashfaq, said through the GNI programme, media publishers could expect to get support to evolve their business model towards sustainable growth and technological innovations empowerment, all while elevating quality journalism.

Ashfaq discussed case studies of media houses who benefited greatly in terms of their organic traffic, page load speed and revenue uplift after they partnered with GNI.

Improving the mobile experience

One example he noted was Bangla Hunt, a news publisher in India.

“When we started speaking to them, part of the challenge was how do they build up reader engagement with the focus of site performance,” he said, adding that the GNI programme provided technological support to the partner primarily around improving their mobile experience through Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and Progressive Web Solution.

He said Bangla Hunt has since had a 7x increase in organic traffic, a 67 percent reduction in page load speed and a revenue uplift of 68 percent after the implementation of AMP.

Ashfaq was speaking at DMA along with Kanako Yagi, Japan’s GNI Strategic Partner Manager.

The GNI programme has funded US$333 million to more than 1,000 news partners in 32 APAC countries since its launch in 2018.

Getting content to a wider audience

Another example shared by Ashfaq was about Indonesia Digital Local News Association (SMSI) with more than 1,000 small-to-medium-sized local news publishers associated with the group.

“A number of these publishers who signed up for the training and related interventions had a non-technical background and had a lot of questions on building the fundamentals in their digital presence.

“We worked with them, there was also a focus on content distribution and how to get the content out to a wider audience in order to increase monetisation opportunity,” said Ashfaq, adding that GNI had engaged with 113 publishers, and out of that number, 40 received direct support on site optimisation and increased monetisation capabilities. 

Driving growth in Japan

Kanako Yagi then shared some examples of publishers who had experienced tremendous growth in their businesses after partnering with GNI.

Yagi highlighted the story of a renowned Japanese newspaper – the Chugoku Shimbun – which was founded in 1892 in Hiroshima. The newspaper had been deeply connected with the community in Hiroshima for providing reliable and trustworthy news.

Chugoku Shimbun, Yagi said, received funding from the government to execute emergency countermeasures to help boost the sale of local oysters, which had been severely effected by Covid-19.

“Due to the current pandemic, the sales of local oysters had been declining. They had a web page to promote the local oysters, but it needed improvement to increase reader satisfaction like page speed and so on,” she said.

“With the GNI programme, Chugoku Shimbun implemented faster web pages with AMP. They have also created Web Stories pages specifically to promote the local oysters,” she said.

Faster web pages

Yagi said Chugoku Shimbun has seen a 389 percent increase in monthly digital ad revenue, 303 percent uplift in page views and 20 percent reduction in page load speed.

“The faster web pages led to an improvement in user experience. They’ve seen a huge uplift in page views,” she said, adding that the media house received positive feedback from the local oyster farmers.

Yagi added that it is vital for publishers to know the community they operate for, as communities often share or face the same issue and therefore seek similar content.

“It’s very fascinating how they (publishers and communities) can connect with each other and share their learnings in order to bring a bigger impact to the communities,” she said.

“Data is important. Take a close look at the data and learn from there to better understand how readers are acting towards it,” Yagi said.

About the author: Zafira Anwar is an award-winning Malaysian-based freelance journalist who loves learning and writing about technological innovations and social development in Southeast Asia.

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