In November 2018, we announced the steps we’re taking as part of the Google News Initiative to fund projects that inject new ideas into the news industry. We are excited to share the 108 recipients of our first GNI Innovation Challenges in Asia-Pacific, Latin America, Middle East, Turkey & Africa and North America representing 39 countries around the regions. This funding will enable our partners to develop sustainable business models by diversifying revenue streams and/or increasing audience engagement. You can read more about selected projects below.
See the winners from each region
Summary: Crikey Group Access is a new approach to handling group subscriptions. The project aims to build a new group subscription offering that can be tailored to organisations, businesses and groups of all sizes. Our business model is already geared towards reader revenue, with over 90% of our total revenue coming from individual subscribers. We’re now ready to expand and diversify our pool of reader revenue by developing an innovative, user-friendly group subscription offering.
Solution: As advertising revenue becomes less accessible to small media publishers, journalism like Crikey’s increasingly depends on reader revenue to achieve sustainability. As the longest running reader revenue model in Australian independent journalism, Crikey understands what works in a reader-focused business model. We have identified a demand for a Crikey group subscription product, yet have not yet been able to deliver a product that meets this demand. Crikey Group Access will allow us to do this and will help to diversify and grow our revenue pool without taking our business model in a direction that is contrary to our current efforts.
Summary: This project will pilot an innovative fundraising platform for Australia’s community broadcasting sector, underpinned by a technology-based solution to support community journalism.
Donations are a key growth area for income generation in community broadcasting and this project will develop the CBAA’s Web Services to include leading fundraising technology for the sector. This will be integrated with the enhanced National Radio News (NRN) service, which will expand the quality and scope of community radio’s on-air and digital news content and drive traffic to station websites.
As a result, NRN will be placed at the forefront of philanthropically funded journalism in Australia.
Solution: Despite 22% of sector income being raised through fundraising, most community radio station websites do not include an online fundraising system (60%).
The CBAA’s Enhanced National News Programming Initiative is set to build capacity in stations to provide listeners with independent news through National Radio News (NRN) and an online news hub.
Through this project, the CBAA will deliver an enhanced digital news strategy for NRN through its Web Services, enabling stations to share regular news updates online as well as on-air, and driving traffic back to station websites equipped with an innovative donation platform.
Summary: The Women's Agenda Extra platform offers our loyal readers a little 'extra', through a simple membership platform. It features three core components including: regular deep dives on key news events that intentionally feature female sources; opportunities for members to discuss stories and issues together and directly with journalists and editors; an innovative database of female expert sources built over time through those quoted in our news features. The platform is not designed to gate or paywall our regular editorial.
Solution: The first is the need to offer broader opportunities for a female perspective on major news events, which we can support and provide through membership revenue -- with at least three female sources quoted per piece. The second being the need to raise the number of female contributors and sources in the mainstream media, which this project will build over time through our database of female sources -- developed from those quoted in our regular news features. And, finally, to address the expressed desires and needs of our readers to better connect and share knowledge regarding the key issues we cover on Women's Agenda.
Summary: Guardian Australia will develop, prototype and user test a technology solution that will allow the timed release of rich media, during audio playback on mobile. These events will enhance the user experience and make it easier for listeners to make financial contributions to publishers via audio content.
Solution: As the business model of journalism pivots towards having a larger portion of reader revenue, we are seeking to unlock the potential to activate this revenue stream in audio content. Guardian Australia’s pilot technology solution will make it easier for podcasts listeners to make financial contributions to publishers and audio creators.
Summary: Mamamia is in the process of developing an innovative membership proposition that caters for different audiences’ content preferences.
Solution: Mamamia is looking to build on the high engagement of our audience with our content and talent to diversify both revenue and traffic sources for the organization.
We acknowledge the limitation to how many platform memberships users are prepared to commit to, and are accordingly offering a unique, flexible and transparent membership model.
Summary: We are creating an open source funding platform for small newsrooms focussed on reader membership. This out-of-the-box micro-site can be easily deployed to bypass, or reduce reliance on, expensive, third-party crowdfunding sites, and flawed fundraising plugins. Regular, monthly support from readers has proven to be the best hope for generating a sustainable income, but accessible, functional and affordable tools and expertise are rarely available to small news startups and outfits. Designed specifically for media outlets, this solution will empower newsrooms to finally take control of their fundraising and manage their relationships with supporters.
Solution: There are no viable free, secure, open source membership or fundraising portals available to small newsrooms. With media funding in crisis, direct reader support remains the most feasible solution and the best way to ensure press freedom. Our Open Membership Portal for Small Newsrooms will be fully maintained, with a training pack, documentation and case studies. Supporters will be able to select different commitment levels and manage their donations through card payments or PayPal. Customisable and secure, it aims to remove barriers for both newsrooms and readers to accepting regular donations.
Summary: Aapki Khabar, Aapki Bhasha' - seeks to create a viable, replicable monetisation model for local, rural journalism across the world, by creating digital news products for a local language audience.
Solution: Rural issues are not represented in the mainstream media, and local vernacular models are hard pressed to sustain themselves. The project seeks to create a local media subscription model which can be replicated across the world, and which will enable the sustainability of local media platforms. The product will aim to bridge local/rural and urban audiences, through reporting, analysis, commentary in multiple formats. It will expand the scope of revenue generation for grassroots media by making the content relevant to educational and research institutes, national and international media platforms, think tanks and governments.
The editorial innovation is the local woman reporter who will be key in producing the product for her audience.
Summary: Turkbox allows news websites to embed widgets on which readers complete CAPTCHA-like data classification and annotation tasks to gain access to articles. This gives readers a novel pay-as-you-go system where readers “pay” news publications by completing elementary data classification tasks. Turkbox pays news publications for each classification task performed while the widget is hosted on their website. Turkbox will work with publications that do not have a strong enough readership to sustain a subscription-based model. Instead of direct payment, readers will classify data.
Solution: With the advent of the subscription-led business model in the online news landscape for publications in India, there are doubts about whether readers will be willing to pay to access their news. A subscription system can have a considerable impact on user retention for online websites, and alienate users that don’t wish to buy a subscription. Turkbox provides a consistent solution for the reader to “pay” the news publication by performing an elementary data classification task in exchange for access to news. This enables news publication to monetize content while also keeping access to content free.
Summary: Artificial intelligence (AI) driven platform for readers to interact, engage and collaborate with Tempo’s newsroom.
Solution: There is a mismatch between Tempo’s in-depth, quality, and investigative content with what Indonesian younger, digital savvy audience want from a media. We need to build a bridge to connect them.
GoTempo is the solution because it is a platform where audience can better engage Tempo’s content and it’s newsroom, by forming communities around individual Tempo’s journalists or issues.
Summary: The residents in Iwate prefecture is aging so fast. We construct some services that helps residents, especially older people by using this application software and our physical network spread around Iwate prefecture.
This application software which is equipped with health care, voice information and coupon services is available for subscribers of Iwate Nippo newspaper. This offers them just only useful function but creates to the customers with comfortable and safety life.
Solution: We have some severe problems in Iwate prefecture. First, it is an aging society. The older people are lonely and cut off from society. They are also exposed to the risk of fraud and disaster those are increasing year by year. Secondly it is a shrinking economy including newspaper industry at local area. We are not only raising some problems on newspaper but also provide solid solutions against that problems by using this application software.
Summary: Our team will focus on tipping and donations as new means of reader revenue separate from those gained through ordinary advertising and subscription. Readers who sympathize with the story or the article they read and wish to commit themselves will be enabled to easily tip or donate to the interviewed community or the journalism they support by using a tool and platform developed by our team. Blockchain technology and cryptocurrency will enable us to lower the cost of such monetary transactions.
Solution: The challenge is reader loyalty. When reading an exceptional article, the reader may be impressed enough to consider making a contribution to the interviewed community. Our team plans to develop a simple tipping and donation tool as a means of expressing such feelings, while at the same time creating new reader revenue that would have been untapped by a fixed subscription fee system. Since tipping and donation income is deemed to be closely related to reader loyalty, it is likely to lead to the improvement of churn rate and a shift to more premium subscription services.
Summary: “Kini Community” will introduce a subscription model incorporating community rewards and recognition for Malaysiakini readers. The deliverable is a points-based reward and loyalty programme, and an e-wallet system that incentivises readers to engage productively with Malaysiakini and its community.
Points will be given to subscribers and readers who engage constructively with Malaysiakini, such as by providing letters or news tips. Points can also be purchased and awarded by one reader to another for actions such as praiseworthy comments. These can be redeemed for perks such as subscription discounts, attending Malaysiakini events, and voting on what stories Malaysiakini should do.
Solution: Following 2018’s election of a new government, Malaysia’s media environment has opened up. Malaysiakini thus needs to find fresh ways to set itself apart.
Through “Kini Community”, Malaysiakini aims to create a new source of reader revenue which encourages customer loyalty and engagement, and offers more value to subscribers.
This project will explore whether strengthening a news site’s community aspects leads to higher subscription and retention rates, and whether a points system can incentivise engagement.
It will also investigate which user actions highly correlate with trust, loyalty and subscription; and whether a points system adds value to a paywalled site.
Summary: This is a reward system that allows paid subscribers of our site to share premium articles with non-subscribers via social media and rewards the first sharer depending on the number of views the article generates. It is an attempt to take the reward-based advertising model commonly seen in mobile games and applying it for the first time to the news industry.
Solution: Korean publishers are faced with three main challenges: falling readership and revenue, a news industry dominated by portal giants, and the spread of fake news. Our reward system seeks to address these problems by actively pulling in readers with an innovative distribution model that asserts “you can make money from sharing good news.” This would drive traffic of individual news sites and help them break free from media distribution that is dependent on major portals. It would also incentivize readers to share quality journalism, gradually rooting out fake news.
Summary: Dotted is the crowdfunding-membership integration model for quality video journalism. Membership model and crowdfunding had apparent pros and cons. and we found that combining two models can more than the sum of parts. It offset their downside and improves reader relationship management. It will help scale and stabilize the monetization process.
Solution: Current revenue system of online video platforms, which is based on the number of views and ads, rewarding provocative materials over quality contents. Diversifying monetization strategy is important for quality video journalism that requires more time and money to produce. Existing revenue models have the trade-off between stable income, scalability, content spreadability. We decided to combine them instead of choosing one.Acquire user by crowdfunding project and convince the participant to join a membership program through personally optimized promotion to achieve to stable and scalable both.
Summary: Frontier Myanmar delivers original reporting from all corners of Myanmar, making space for a range of voices, and setting high editorial standards. Our mission is to inform and connect people who care about a more liberal, tolerant future for Myanmar. We will do this through journalism, advocacy, community, and research built around membership components. This will help to safeguard our editorial independence, enabling us to provide a community of diplomats, NGOs, academics, journalists, and businesses with vital insights into the complex socio-political changes shaping Myanmar.
Solution: The political climate in Myanmar has deteriorated, affecting the ability of media to cover topics central to the democratic transition, while limiting the voices of marginalised communities. At the same time, the media industry is going through significant economic upheaval, making it harder for outlets to maintain editorial independence amid external pressure. Our solution is to diversify Frontier from an ad-driven model by adding membership components. By putting our audience first through an approach based on solving problems specific to them, and building engagement through proprietary sites and applications, we want to keep our core reporting accessible and free.
Summary: ZGM Workflow Optimization Project is aimed at optimizing the newsroom workflow as well as making it easier for our team to manage our online presence and subscription services.
The integrated system will allow us to personalize our subscription services based on the reading habits of the readers, and allowing us to offer readers with tailored services with dynamic pricing. Its main objective is to help us convert readers to valuable subscribers, attract more new subscribers while at the same time keeping old ones better engaged.
The system will be an integrated content creation management and customer management system.
Solution: The project aims to solve current problems faced by the print industry, especially in Mongolia using technological advancements while creating new sources of revenue.
Currently, the business industry in Mongolia relies on revenue from print subscription and ad sales. The obsolete business model has left publishers in constant financial deficit proving that publishers need to better utilize advancements in digital technology. By making our newsroom workflow easier and more flexible, ZGM will firstly retain its human resources, and by being able to analyze and tailor our readers' reading habits we will be able to attract more readers while keeping old ones engaged.
Summary: The Record Membership Project is to grow Nepal's first member-supported publication. With an inclusive team, the project aims to produce quality journalism online and use digital innovations. Our vision is to publish the most trusted journalism on Nepal’s politics, society, and culture while staying true to our values of editorial independence, accountability to our readers, and innovation.
Solution: The main challenge we are trying to address is to find a sustainable business model suitable to produce high quality journalism online.
Summary: PressPatron is a media monetization platform that turns readers into paying supporters, by streamlining the payment process for memberships and donations. Our GNI project will add new features to our platform, making it easier for traditional publishers to sell print and digital subscriptions under a membership model. This will generate extra revenue, by letting readers make an additional contribution towards a publication’s in-depth analysis and investigative reporting. Under this business model, a reader would be invited to contribute any amount that matches their budget. The reader would then receive different subscription benefits based on their level of giving.
Solution: After more than a decade of revenue losses and job cuts, the media community needs sustainable business models to fund the production of quality journalism. PressPatron helps media organizations identify the best business model for their journalism, while also providing technology that makes it easy to run a successful funding campaign and adopt best practices. We’re excited about the new functionality we’ll be adding to our platform, with the support of GNI. Our project will allow media organizations to gain easy access to a comprehensive range of features that will further streamline the process of running a successful membership campaign.
Summary: This project exhaustively chronicles over 5 million news stories printed in Pakistan’s oldest Urdu newspaper in a span of 70 years, organized in multiple taxonomies like people, organization, products, brands, locations, events, issues & incidents. Auto summaries for each taxonomy topic will be processed using an AI-based algorithmic system. End result will be published in the form of an exclusive membership based platform as well as a set of 7 AR-assisted interactive books where each of the reference material will just be a QR code away.
Solution: There is no easy way to find authentic historical information from news archives as it is available only in a couple of libraries in paper-form that requires people to travel all the way to that library in a country that is spread almost around a million square kilometers with not very supportive transport infrastructure. Being the oldest Urdu newspaper we plan to provide access to this wealth of authentic information through digitization of newspapers while organizing it in various taxonomies and making them available through a news archive platform as well as a set of 7 AR-assisted interactive books.
Summary: zaobao.sg is widely recognised as an objective and credible Chinese digital news site in Singapore and among global Chinese communities. It currently runs on a freemium model and has 2 types of readers: subscribers and guests.
By introducing a membership model, non-subscriber guest readers will gain access to premium content by performing specific gamified and non-monetary based micro-transactions to accrue points.
This project aims to build reader loyalty and engagement with zaobao.sg, and convert the unknown non-subscriber users into known loyal readers who may become subscribers.
Solution: Out of our 2.3 million monthly users, we don’t know the reading behaviour of 95% of them. In addition surveyed non-subscribers see no need to pay for news. However, they accept delayed gratification for free content.
By introducing a membership model, coupled with a micro-transaction formula, users will be able to perform specific gamified actions to accrue points for premium content access and even gifts.
We hope to gain a better understanding of our users and their behaviour, which will translate into more effective membership/subscription marketing, subsequently driving reader revenue.
Summary: For better reader journey before becoming a loyal reader or a paid subscriber, this project aims to develop a recommendation system to provide personalized content experience using machine learning algorithms.
Solution: The goal of this project is to increase reader engagement as well as subscription conversion. The project will focus on implementing personalization system and related algorithms to efficiently recommend the right content to the right user.