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In Other Google News: Local News and Transcriptions

Automatically-generating transcripts, and a news initiative.

Google’s peculiar tussle with the BBC is just one podcast-related story coming out of Mountain View this week; today, we’re bringing you two more to store at the back of your mind. Which is just as well, I suppose: when it comes to an overwhelming conglomerate with so very many tentacles, you’d probably want to keep an eye on as many things that’s going on elsewhere within the organization.

Here are those two stories:

(1) From Android Police: “Google Podcasts is now automatically generating transcripts of episodes and is using them as metadata to help listeners search for shows, even if they don’t know the title or when it was published.” Do take the time to check out the post, as it contains some nifty details.

This methodology shouldn’t come as any sort of surprise, especially if you’ve been tracking this story for a while. Since Google renewed its podcasting push, we were publicly told, consistently and over time, that a shape like this was always the goal for the company — as the organization told the Pacific Content marketing blog during the Google Podcast initiative’s initial press push last year, the plan was always to “make audio a first-class citizen” within its search universe.

Here’s the main thing I’ll be mulling over: to state the obvious, how we interpret the effectiveness of Google’s upcoming podcasting activities should be fundamentally different from how we read the podcasting activities of most other platforms pushing their way into the space, be they Spotify or Pandora. (I’d even go so far as motion that even Apple, as an actor in the podcast ecosystem, has more in common with the latter two platforms than Google.) Spotify and Pandora, in my view, are structurally more incentivized to increase the time spent by users on their respective platforms, in accordance with the business-advertising models that they employ respectively. Google, on the hand, wins by becoming the — if not a — go-to hub for finding the things and podcasts you want to find. Two connected impulses that are ultimately different at its core, and it’s worth keeping that in mind when assessing the future actions of these platforms.

To put it another way, in terms perhaps a little more provocative: Google feels more structurally incentivized to solve the Discovery problem (“I’m trying to listen a thing about X”), while Spotify and Pandora feel chiefly incentivized to predominantly solve an Experience problem (“Just fill the gaping hole where my feelings should be, please”). Just food for thought.

(2) Axios’ Sara Fischer with a fascinating scoop on Tuesday: “Google is launching the Local Experiments Project, an effort to fund dozens of new local news websites around the country and eventually around the world. The tech giant says it will have no editorial control over the sites, which will be built by partners it selects with local news expertise.”

This, of course, is intimately connected to another story that we linked to on Tuesday’s newsletter. From the Press Gazette, over in the UK: “Two of the UK’s biggest regional news publishers have teamed up to develop local news podcasts and audio projects… Manchester Evening News publisher Reach (formerly Trinity Mirror) and Yorkshire Post publisher JPI Media (formerly Johnston Press) have won €500,000 (£434,000) from Google to grow the project.”

That initiative, by the way, is being called “Laudable.” Here’s the formal announcement post, and I’d note the following line: “Once up and running, it is hoped that Laudable will support publishers across the UK, beyond the two which submitted the bid. The project will also pioneer new ways for local advertisers to connect with local audiences through audio.”

Also, the project will involve a partnership with a podcast platform called Entale. and if that name sounds familiar to you, that’s because Caroline covered the up-start in October. To refresh your memory: Entale is a London-based startup — part of an accelerator called Founders Factory, with backing from, among others, the Guardian Media Group — that promises “a rich interactive experience” for audio, and has signed content partnerships with the likes of Conde Nast, The Economist and Hachette. For long-time observers, yes, it is quite reminiscent of early Acast indeed.

So, I personally spend a lot of time thinking about local news and the global decline thereof, and as such, I’m generally into any broad efforts to either fill the increasingly yawning local media gap or seed experiments that could yield some breakthrough in business models. And yet, I can’t shake the fact that Google, widely considered a core contributor to the on-going decline in local journalism in America and across the globe (via conquest over new advertising spend), is now pumping money into the space for a rebuild…