Alphabet Inc.’s Google said it has reached agreements with selected publishers around the world to license news content, a significant development in the yearslong tug of war between the tech giant and media companies.
Google said the initial participants include Germany’s Spiegel Group, publisher of Der Spiegel; Brazilian media company Diarios Associados; and Solstice Media, the publisher of local newspapers in Australia.
The company didn’t announce partnerships with any publishers in the U.S., where large players including Wall Street Journal parent News Corp have pressed Google to compensate them for news content.
Brad Bender, Google’s vice president of product management for news, said the company is talking to news outlets in “half a dozen” additional countries, but declined to name them.
Mr. Bender said the licensing program represents a step up in Google’s business dealings with the news industry, which have so far included limited agreements to license some audio, weather and sports content.
He declined to provide financial details on the latest licensing deals, saying they vary depending on how much and what type of content each publisher is providing to Google.
Google is paying the news organizations to license audio, video, images and stories that will be featured on Google’s primary mobile app and on mobile devices using the Android operating system, accessible with a swipe on the homescreen. The licensed content will also be built into the Google News app for every mobile device, and the company hopes to eventually make it available on other Google products. Google aims to launch the product later this year, Mr. Bender said.
For years, news executives have criticized major tech companies like Google and Facebook Inc. for aggregating and distributing articles on their platforms without shouldering any of the financial burden of gathering the news. Rupert Murdoch, News Corp executive chairman, has been among the most outspoken critics, along with News Corp Chief Executive Robert Thomson.
The winds have begun to shift, somewhat. Facebook last year struck multimillion-dollar deals with publishers to put some of their content in its news tab. Apple Inc. last year launched Apple News+, which for $9.99 a month provides access to articles from hundreds of magazines including Vogue, GQ and Sports Illustrated. Dow Jones & Co., publisher of the Journal, has a commercial agreement to supply news through Apple services.
Google has moved more slowly than its rivals. In February, the Journal reported that Google was in talks to pay publishers for news content.
Google has come under increasing scrutiny by regulators. In France and Australia, authorities are pressuring the company to give value back to publishers that provide content included in its search results. Australian government officials said in April they would require Google to begin paying outlets for their content.
In the U.S., the Justice Department and a group of state attorneys general are likely to bring antitrust litigation against Google, focusing on its dominant search and online-advertising businesses, the Journal has reported.
“We can’t turn the clock back to a world where the internet doesn’t exist,” Mr. Bender said. “We are highly motivated to play our part alongside other companies, governments and civil-society groups to enable a better future for journalism.”