Matt Brittin, search engine Google's UK director, said on Wednesday that the search engine giant has shared $5 billion with publishers through its contextual ads programme, AdSense, in the last year. Google has paid this amount to content providers such as magazines and newspapers, with Brittin saying that the company sent around a billion clicks a month to the websites of newspapers and magazines.
Google AdSense works by enabling website owners to display contextual advertising on their web pages. These adverts are administered by Google on a pay-per-click or pay-per-impression basis, with both Google and the website owner sharing the revenue generated whenever an advert is viewed by a visitor to the site.
Brittin said Google wanted to help content providers and publishers build their audience and monetise their products online. He hit back at critics who have accused Google of profiting from clicks through to news websites, claiming that Google's tools and expertise are ''part of the solution''.
''In a world where everyone is a publisher, what is needed more than ever is editing skills and brands that help people understand the quality of the content and help them to find the content that is useful,'' he told an audience of publishing executives at the World Magazine Congress in London on Wednesday.
''The challenge is the model of monetisation online and figuring out how to make that economically viable in the same way as print products are. Those models are lagging consumer behaviour and all of us are trying to keep up with the consumer.''
Brittin said that Google searches for magazines and other printed publications online had risen by almost 500 per cent in the last four years. He urged publishers to learn from the success of web-based e-commerce sites to gain a better understanding of how to engage with consumers and meet their needs.
He said that the economic slowdown would ''accelerate consumer adoption of technology.''
''Google doesn't have any of the answers,'' he said. ''We are a technology company, not a media company. We are run by a team of scientists and technologists, so what we focus on is understanding how people are using technology and trying to make technology that they need and to help publishers make money online.''
Brittin hit back at media industry critics of Google, who argue that the US internet giant has built its hugely successful search advertising business on the back of other companies' content without providing them with adequate financial compensation, saying his company wanted to help digital content businesses build audience and find new ways to make money online.
Brittin added that digital content presented a huge opportunity for publishers in the UK because it was one of the advanced markets online, with consumers spending a third of their leisure time on the web.
He said that since 2005, the number of searches on Google for "magazines" had risen 225 per cent and that searches for "glossies and tabloids" had increased by 458 per cent. He pledged to work with publishers to improve their digital revenues and help close the gap between print and online advertising returns.
Brittin, a former Trinity Mirror executive, said the 10-year-old company was still "very much a work in progress" but was working hard to figure out the best way to help publishers digitally. He called on publishers to learn lessons from e-commerce sites to improve their understanding of their consumers and engagement with them.