What is the GNI Innovation Challenge?

Introduction

As a part of the Google News Initiative’s $300M commitment to help journalism thrive in the digital age, we’re launching GNI Innovation Challenges to support projects that drive digital innovation and develop new business models.

We have launched the first in our series of global challenges in the Asia-Pacific Region. The Asia-Pacific Challenge will include two rounds in 2018 and 2019, as part of our overall commitment to the Google News Initiative in the region. The first challenge focuses on increasing reader revenue in any form. Projects will receive up to $300,000 in funding to finance up to 70% of the total project cost. Special discretion on the project cap may be considered by the jury depending on the scale and impact of a very large collaborative effort.

Application window closed

Application Process

There will be a future application window later this year. The first window opened on November 28th 2018 and closed on January 9th 2019.

Application Eligibility Requirements

The Asia-Pacific GNI Innovation Challenge is open to organizations of every size, including freelancers and sole traders, that aim to produce innovative, original journalism that enlightens citizens with trustworthy journalistic content and whose projects focus on encouraging a more sustainable news ecosystem. Established publishers, online-only players, news startups, publisher consortia and local industry associations are all eligible to apply. Applicants must be incorporated or based in a country in the Asia-Pacific region as outlined below.

Eligible Regions

Incorporated organizations must be incorporated in one of the eligible countries within (countries listed below) in the Asia-Pacific region. Unincorporated organizations must be registered in the Asia-Pacific region or, if unregistered, have their principal place of business based in the region.

Eligible geographies are (in alphabetical order):

Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, Cook Islands, East Timor, Easter Island, Fiji, Hong Kong SAR, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Macau SAR, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Vietnam.

Eligible Projects

Successful projects will be highly innovative with outcomes that support the production of original digital journalism and sustainable business models for the news industry - all within one year of funding. Projects can be experimental but must be measurable with well-defined goals. We encourage you to clearly outline goals and benchmarks for the project in your application, especially regarding the creation of new revenue streams. Key performance metrics should have a significant digital component but there is no requirement to use Google products for tracking results.

Projects will be evaluated against four main criteria:

  1. Impact on the news ecosystem: Preferred projects will demonstrate potential for significant positive impact on the production of original journalism, the creation of new revenue streams and even change the way people consume digital news.
  2. Innovation: Projects should focus on innovative uses of technology, solutions for the development of new business models, or approaches to reader engagement that lead to business transformation for news organizations and readers.
  3. Feasibility: Submissions should have a sound business plan, clearly outline key performance indicators or metrics, and set out key risks and how to mitigate them.
  4. Inspiration: All project should include a willingness to contribute to the improvement of the ecosystem.

Projects that would NOT qualify for Innovation Challenge funding include:

  1. Projects limited to the creation or publication of content that do not introduce an element of new innovation
  2. Projects related to news coverage or translating news content into other languages
  3. Projects that upgrade a legacy publishing system
  4. Projects related to collating or listing data, such as the publication of job listings, stock exchange data or re-published newswire articles
  5. Projects that only support training or education
  6. Projects that aren’t related to monetization
  7. Projects that don’t impact a news organization
  8. Research projects that don’t include an implementation component

Project Funding

Google will award up to $300,000 to selected projects. Special discretion on the total project cap may be considered by the jury depending on the scale and impact of a very large collaborative effort. Google will finance up to 70% of the overall costs of the selected projects. The remaining self-funded costs can be operational costs. Eligible expenses include editorial and other personnel costs, engineering costs and the purchase or licensing of any equipment, tools, hardware, software and other assets or materials needed for the project and marketing expenses. Funding may not be spent on general and overhead costs.

Governance

Applications to the GNI Innovation Asia-Pacific Challenge are reviewed by a combination of the Google project team and a jury. The project team will review all applications and interview applicants and then make a recommendation on funding projects. The project team includes, but is not limited to:

Ludovic Blecher, Google News Initiative Project Lead
Ben Shaw, Google News Initiative Operations
Fazal Ashfaq, APAC News Strategy
Irene Jay Liu, News Lab Lead APAC
Chris Brumitt, Communications Manager, APAC
Gilles Demptos, Public Policy

The jury, a mix of Google executives and external experts from the Asia-Pacific news industry, will vote on projects and is responsible for oversight of the GNI Challenge.

FAQs

Who is eligible to apply?
Answer

The Asia-Pacific GNI Innovation Challenge is open to organizations of all sizes, including freelancers and sole traders, that aim to produce innovative, original journalism that enlightens citizens with trustworthy journalistic content, and whose projects focus on encouraging a more sustainable news ecosystem. Established publishers, online-only players, news startups, publisher consortia and local industry associations are all eligible to apply. Incorporated organizations must be incorporated in one of the eligible countries (listed below) within the Asia-Pacific region. Unincorporated organizations must be registered in the Asia-Pacific region (or, if unregistered, have their principal place of business there).

Eligible countries are (in alphabetical order):

Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, Cook Islands, East Timor, Easter Island, Fiji, Hong Kong SAR, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Macau SAR, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Vietnam

What’s the theme of the first call for project?
Answer

The first Asia-Pacific GNI Innovation Challenge will focus on projects that enable the next generation of new reader revenue models. We’re looking for creative ideas that tackle the challenge of creating new forms of revenue and monetization for news organizations. Projects could seek to diversify revenue streams through direct payment models such as micropayments, digital currency, subscriptions, and memberships or through indirect payments like bundling, relationships with non-news subscriptions or utility payments. They could also create new digital products and services.

All ideas are welcome but we require that all projects have a monetization component and provide explicit plans for monetization with clear indicators that show the project’s potential to create economic value added for the business.

How are projects evaluated?
Answer

Projects will be evaluated against four main criteria:

  1. Impact on the news ecosystem: Preferred projects will demonstrate potential for significant positive impact on the production of original journalism, the creation of new revenue streams and even change the way people consume digital news.
  2. Innovation: Projects should focus on innovative solutions for the development of new business models, uses of technology or approaches to reader engagement that lead to business transformation for news organizations and readers.
  3. Feasibility: Submissions should have a sound business plan, clearly outline key performance indicators or metrics, and set out key risks and how to mitigate them.
  4. Inspiration: All projects should include a willingness to contribute to the improvement of the ecosystem through a willingness to share knowledge through open source code and case studies.

How does the selection process work?
Answer

Initial selection of projects will be done by a Project Team, composed of a select team of Google staff who are experienced in media and journalism. They will review all applications for eligibility, innovation and impact. They’ll compose a shortlist, conduct interviews with applicants and make recommendations to the Asia-Pacific GNI Innovation Challenge Jury.

When can I apply?
Answer

There will be at least two application windows for the Asia-Pacific Challenge. The first one opened on November 28, 2018 and closed January 9, 2019. Further details will be announced via the GNI website.

How can I apply?
Answer

Only online applications in English will be considered. You will be asked to provide descriptions, detailed project plans and budget information via our online application form as well as accept the Asia-Pacific GNI Innovation Challenge Application Terms and Conditions.

How can I best prepare my submission?
Answer

The application window lasts for 6 weeks. Take advantage of this time to document your application as thoroughly as possible. All eligible applications submitted by the deadline will be reviewed, so there’s no need to rush the online application form.

Please take the time to prepare your application through researching, brainstorming and drafting your proposal with your team and reviewing investment requirements ahead of submitting your application. The full list of application questions can be found here. Your team will need to provide explicit plans for monetization with clear indicators showing the potential of the project to create economic value added for the business.

If you need additional information, please contact us at apacgnichallenge@google.com.

What information is required for my application?
Answer

In order to assess the projects, the Project Team will need information including:

  • Company/individual information
  • Location, URL, number of employees, number of journalists
  • Project description
  • Project budget and amount of funding requested
  • Key indicators to measure the impact of the project
  • Monetization details showing the potential of the project to create economic value add for the business. (Large and Medium applications only)
  • A slideshow of, ideally, 10 slides or fewer which should address at least the following:
    • Introduction
    • Team
    • Problem
    • Solution
    • Product
    • Target Market
    • Competition
    • Business Model & opportunities
    • Appendix
    • Contact

As set out in the Asia-Pacific GNI Innovation Challenge Terms & Conditions we require that applicants do not submit any highly confidential or business sensitive information (as those terms are defined in the Application Terms and Conditions).

Google intends to publicise its activities relating to the GNI Innovation Challenges. As outlined in the Application Terms and Conditions, it is a condition of application that Google may publicise aggregated data showing how funds have been awarded in the GNI Innovation Challenges and certain project-specific information.

What if I want to work in collaboration with others?
Answer

Collaborative applications with other industry players are very welcome. You can find more information on how to make a collaborative application in the Asia-Pacific GNI Innovation Challenge Terms & Conditions.

Where can I read a full copy of the terms and conditions?
Answer
Will every application be reviewed?
Answer

Yes, we will review all eligible applications received by the application deadline.

How can I contact the GNI Project Team?
Answer

If you would like to contact the team please email apacgnichallenge@google.com.

During the assessment process, applicants may be asked to provide additional details about their project, including through follow-up interviews and/or the submission of additional supporting documents.

How many applications can I submit per round?
Answer

Each applicant may only submit one application per round and we will not consider multiple applications in respect to the same project. For organizations that are part of a larger group or holding structure, we are unlikely to fund more than 3 projects per group or holding per application round. Organization groups are therefore encouraged to focus their applications on top priority projects.

What will you do with the information I submit?
Answer

A limited number of people from the Project Team and Jury will have access to the responses that applicants provide. They will only use the responses to assess the projects.

Application information received by Project Team and Jury will be exclusively used for GNI Challenge operations and processes. Any information shared outside of the Project Team and Jury can only be done with the applicant's permission. Additionally, as described in the Application Terms and Conditions, certain information may be used by Google for publicity purposes.

Please see the Application Terms and Conditions for further details on how we will treat the information that you provide to us. As set out in the Application Terms and Conditions, we require that applicants do not submit to us any Business Sensitive Information. If the applicant has indicated that they wish to be connected to other applicants or industry groups, the Project Team may contact the applicant to offer knowledge sharing opportunities, such as including featuring projects at events and in case studies.

Are there spending limitations?
Answer

Funding may not be spent on: general and overhead costs such as office rental, furniture and travel expenses, costs and expenses connected with registering, protecting, defending or monetizing any intellectual property rights you may have (or that you may obtain through registration). This includes payments to any personnel engaged in such activities, or expenses or liabilities incurred before the date on which the parties enter into a Funding Agreement.

Which expenses are eligible?
Answer

Eligible expenses include editorial costs (e.g. on staff or freelance employees), asset creation costs (such as licenses), engineering costs (e.g. product development, project management, user experience design, database build and maintenance, and hosting) and marketing expenses. Please note marketing expenses will only be covered up to 20% of the total funding awarded.

Please note that the effective date for the project will be the date that we sign the funding agreement. No expenses incurred before this date can be covered by the funding.

What constitutes highly confidential information and business sensitive information?
Answer

Business sensitive information is confidential information which, if disclosed, would provide your competitors with a competitive advantage over you.

Highly confidential information is confidential information that is highly sensitive and, if disclosed, would cause substantial harm to you.

Please see the Application Terms and Conditions for further information on this.

As the owner of your project, you are the best judge on what information is Business Sensitive or Highly Confidential. However, if you are in any doubt about this then we recommend that you seek independent legal advice.

When will I hear back about my application?
Answer

If your application is shortlisted, you will hear from us about two months after the closure of the application window with any follow up questions we have before communicating our final decision to selected applicants. At that time, we will contact you by email and arrange a video meeting to discuss the funding process in greater detail. Unsuccessful applications will be notified but we can’t provide specific feedback to applicants who have not been selected.

If the project is not selected, can I learn more about why?
Answer

Unfortunately, due to the high volume of applications expected, the Project Team is unable to provide personalized feedback on each proposal. That said, we will make ourselves available for general advice in the future and to answer questions about the application process via apacgnichallenge@google.com.

What is the role of the project team?
Answer

Initial selection of projects will be done by a project team, composed of experienced Google staff, who will review all applications for eligibility, innovation and impact. They’ll pre-select projects and make recommendations for final selection to the Challenge jury.

What is the role of the jury?
Answer

Challenge oversight and final approval will be decided by a jury comprised of Google staff and experienced industry figures. The jury team consists of internal, high-level stakeholders responsible for the final selection of projects of the Asia-Pacific GNI Innovation Challenge. This group includes regional and global Google executives and up to two external experts from the news industry. They will receive and review a list of shortlisted projects and will vote for the final selection based on during a one-day in-person meeting. Projects will be shared for their review 15 days before the jury meeting. You can find more information under Governance on this page.

Who is part of the project team?
Answer

The project team consists of Google stakeholders who are responsible for ensuring and communicating the success of the Asia-Pacific GNI Innovation Challenge. Team includes, but is not be limited to:

Ludovic Blecher, Google News Initiative Project Lead
Ben Shaw, Google News Initiative Operations
Fazal Ashfaq, APAC News Strategy
Irene Jay Liu, News Lab Lead APAC
Chris Brumitt, Communications Manager, APAC
Gilles Demptos, Public Policy

Who is part of the jury?
Answer

Jury is composed of regional and global Google executives and to up to two external experts.