Madhav Chinnappa, Director of News Ecosystem Development at Google

We speak to Madhav Chinnappa about his career in the news industry, and how Google are working to deliver better and more accurate news across the world

Madhav Chinnappa, Director of News Ecosystem Development at Google

Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?

Hi, I am Madhav and I work at Google with News Publishers to ensure news organisations can get the most out of being online.

What does your job involve? Give us the typical outline of a day?

I work with different Google teams (eg the Google News team, the YouTube team etc) and the news industry - from national newspapers to online only platform to try to help create a sustainable news ecosystem.

What’s great about your job?

I am a news geek so this is a great job for me. I think news is important so I believe I am working on things that matter, as the sustainability of news should be very important for all of us

What are the bits you don’t like or find challenging?

Aligning lots of different viewpoints to create things people across Google can collaborate on can be a tad challenging at times - but it’s always worth it when we settle on a great idea.

What are the highlights of your career to date?

Just over three years ago, I was part of creating the Digital News Initiative (DNI) in Europe which was our way of engaging with the European news ecosystem. We built it around the pillars of Product, Training & Research and Innovation. This year DNI evolved into the Google News Initiative (GNI) which is a global initiative based around the pillars of Product, Partnerships and Programmes. It’s fantastic to see a European idea take shape across the world.

What was your career path into this job? 

I started in news in 1994 as part of the start up team of Associated Press Television (APTV). I worked my way into the newsroom and was acting Asian Editor for a while before taking a role on the business side. I moved to the BBC after a year at United News & Media and at the BBC I ended up being Head of Development and Rights before I joined Google. I still consider myself a news person and not a techie!

Can you describe your biggest challenge so far in your career? How did you overcome it?

l have been profoundly lucky in my career which I am grateful for. The biggest challenge I faced is probably during a year I had outside of news after APTV. I realised that I was not happy in my role and came to the realisation that I missed the news industry. Therefore I made a conscious effort to get back into the news industry, which I thankfully was able to.

Have you noticed any changes in the industry? If so, what?

Since I started in news decades ago, the arrival of the internet and new technologies like mobile phones have led to a profound shift to more user choice and control. People all over the world now have access to more information from more sources, and have more choices for their attention than ever before. They decide what they want to read, see and listen to, when and from whom. This has been challenging for the news industry but it has also created new opportunities - lowering barriers to entry for new players and enabling publishers to reach new and much bigger audiences and make money from content in different ways. 

What are some of the tools Google are creating to help journalists and newsrooms?

We have a brilliant team called the Google News Lab who train journalists and newsrooms to use Google tools for reporting and storytelling. The list of tools we have available for journalists is long - everything from Reverse Image Search to Fusion Tables which help with things like data journalism and verification. I wish News Lab and the GNI had existed when I was in a newsroom. The best way to find them is to follow this link here:

In an article for British Journalism Review last year you wrote that Google conservatively generates between 3.5p and 7p per click for publishers. However, this year, in part due to lobbying by publishers, the EU passed draft legislation that would require search engines like Google to pay for showing news. Given this, do you think there will always be a slightly tense relationship between Google and publishers? 

While the internet and new technologies have given people access to a wider variety of news and information than ever before, and allowed more publishers to reach bigger, more global audiences, it has also fundamentally changed the business models that used to underpin news. I believe that partnerships and collaborations like Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and the YT Player for Publisher are the best ways for publishers and tech companies to work together to ensure a sustainable future for the news ecosystem.

Do you think other technology companies are doing enough to help legitimate journalism and fight fake news? If not, what more should be done?

Google as primarily a search engine takes the fight against misinformation very seriously as it goes to the heart of what we try to do: returning a relevant and useful set of results for any user’s query. 

Google’s mission is to organise the world’s information and provide useful and relevant results. Disinformation, or content that is designed to mislead, is neither relevant nor useful. We are tackling this problem from many angles: 

  1. Supporting the news industry to innovate and develop new business models so they can keep producing quality journalism

  2. Changing the way we surface search results to help ensure quality content ranks above less trustworthy content and, in breaking news situations to bias towards authoritativeness/ fact based news and away from opinion. And making it easier for people to give us direct feedback when they see a bad result.

  3. Introducing fact-checking labels to both Google News and Search and directly funding a number of fact-checking projects, including Full Fact and the Ferret.

  4. Providing training, programs, and research to newsrooms, here in Cardiff and all over the UK

  5. Enabling media literacy - working with the National Literacy Trust and the Guardian, among others, on a literacy programme called News Wise in the UK - so young people can make sense of news online

  6. Blocking the flow of traffic and money to malicious websites with our misrepresentative ads policy

You’ve been granted the ability to send a message to 16-year-old you. What do you say?

Slow down a bit and try to savour and remember things a bit more! 

Do you have any advice for young people interested in doing your kind of job?

I am sure it’ll sound like a cliche but sometimes cliches are true so I’d say that you should love news and be passionate about everything you do! 


Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is the Editor of Voice. He is a politics graduate and holds a masters in journalism, with particular interest in youth political engagement and technology. He is also a mentor to our Voice Contributors, and champions our festivals programme, including the reporter team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

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