FTC looks at the future of news

For the next two days, the Federal Trade Commission will explore a subject that's central to democracy: the future of news. I'll be representing Google at the event, which the commission is calling "From Town Criers to Bloggers: How Will Journalism Survive the Digital Age?" We're an optimistic company, so maybe it's no surprise that we believe journalism will not only survive, but thrive on the Internet. And we think we can help.

Why does Google care about the future of the news? Our mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful, and journalism is an important source of the high-quality information for which our users search. It also serves a vital public service. So, as the industry goes through a wrenching period of transition, we're working with newspapers, magazines, broadcasters, web-only outlets and other news organizations that publish online to find solutions. We applaud the experiments that many publishers are trying and want to work with them to help drive even more innovation. We're focusing on helping news publishers in three key areas:

Traffic: Google makes it easy for people to find the news they're looking for and discover new sources of information. Google sends about 4 billion clicks each month, or 100,000 per minute, to news publishers via Google News, web search and other services. Each click is an opportunity for publishers to show ads, win loyal readers and register users. They can also sell online subscriptions: news publishers can charge for their work and ensure that it's discovered through Google -- these two are not mutually exclusive. Of course, news publishers have control over whether their content is made discoverable through Google.

Audience engagement: Google offers news publishers free tools to better engage with their audiences. Examples include YouTube Direct, which helps news outlets solicit and manage online video submissions from citizen reporters, and Google Maps, which publishers use to create and embed custom maps to augment their coverage. You'll see us try experiments like Google Fast Flip, which we launched in Google Labs with more than three dozen publishing partners to provide online news consumers with a "magazine-like" experience.

Revenue: Google provides a variety of advertising solutions to help publishers maximize their revenue. Two of the best-known are AdSense, for serving relevant ads on a publisher's web pages, and DoubleClick tools, for managing, serving and measuring display ads. There's still a big gap between the amount of time people spend online and the amount of advertising dollars spent online, so we're investing in interest-based advertising and other ways to make ads even more relevant (and as a result, more valuable) to publications' readers. Google is also exploring technology solutions to make paid content systems more seamless for publishers and users, such as subscription services and billing platforms.

Just as there's no single cause for the news industry's current struggles, there's no single solution. We would love your thoughts on additional ways we can help journalism thrive on the Internet. Feel free to tune in the webcast of today's proceedings on the FTC's website and share your ideas with us in the comments below.