Bay Area News Group has won funding from Google to create a premium subscriber experience on its website, under a program the search giant launched last year to help journalism thrive in the digital age. The funding was announced Friday.
The news group plans to use the funds to provide members with ad-free website access on desktop and mobile devices, location-aware news recommendations, commenting privileges and VIP treatment at live events featuring its journalists.
The add-on price has not yet been determined. The initial experience is planned to launch on www.MercuryNews.com in 2020.
“We’re developing a better, faster user experience for subscribers, location-awareness to deliver news based on where our readers are and other features we believe will make our publications not only easier and more fun to use, but also indispensable to our local audience,” said Frank Pine, executive editor of Bay Area News Group and Southern California News Group.
The two groups, subsidiaries of MediaNews Group, own The Mercury News, East Bay Times, Marin Independent Journal, The Orange County Register and other local news publications.
Mountain View, Calif.-based Google kicked off its Google News Initiative in March 2018, committing to spend $300 million globally over three years. Last year, it created a two-year, $30 million program called GNI Innovation Challenges.
The North American version, which accepted applicants until mid-July, asked for project ideas that generate revenue and increase audience engagement with local journalism.
Google is funding less than 70 percent of the $130,000 project at The Mercury News.