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What is the GNI Innovation Challenge?

Introduction

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

We are proud to launch the GNI’s second Innovation Challenge in Asia-Pacific. The Challenge will focus on creative projects that increase audience engagement for news providers. Google will fund selected projects up to USD $250,000 and will finance up to 70% of the total project cost. Special discretion on the total project cap may be considered by the Jury depending on the scale and impact of projects.

The GNI will fund a set of projects from around the region that meet specified criteria, to empower news innovators from around the world to demonstrate new thinking in online journalism and the development of new publishing business models. In turn, we hope to share knowledge generated from the projects with the wider industry.

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Application Process

There will be one application window opening on October 31st, 2019 9:00 PT and closing January 7th, 2020 23:59 PT. 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. You will also have to accept the Asia-Pacific GNI Innovation Challenge Application Terms and Conditions.

Application Eligibility Requirements

The Asia-Pacific GNI Innovation Challenge is open to organizations of every size - digital natives, startups, NGOs, industry organizations, broadcasters, traditional news organizations and freelancers - that aim to produce innovative, original journalism and to enlighten citizens with trustworthy journalistic content, and whose projects focus on encouraging a more sustainable news ecosystem. Organizations must be incorporated or based in one of the eligible countries in Asia-Pacific as outlined below.

Eligible Regions

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

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

The second Asia-Pacific GNI Innovation Challenge will support creative projects that increase audience engagement for news providers. All ideas are welcome, but we are requiring all projects to have clear indicators showing the impact of the project from a user perspective and/or for a business perspective (e.g. audience indicators, business plan when relevant, etc.) Successful projects will also need to be delivered within one year.

Projects can be experimental but must be for sites that are already in operation at the time of application and must have measurable, well-defined goals. We encourage you to clearly underline the opportunities of the project by providing clear Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). KPIs should have a significant digital component.

Projects will be evaluated against four main criteria:

  1. Impact on the news ecosystem: Projects should demonstrate potential for significant positive impact in respect of audience engagement. Engaged users are more likely to return often to a news website, visit more pages during a session and are more inclined to sign up for an email newsletter. They are also more likely to convert to paid subscribers. We are interested in hearing of big ideas and projects to make users interested or more actively engaged with your offer.
  2. Innovation: Preferred projects will be innovative (use of technology, business model, new reader engagement approaches, etc.) and transformative for the applicant and for users.
  3. Feasibility: Projects should demonstrate clear indicators and metrics or even a business plan, when relevant, and set out key risks and mitigation steps.
  4. Inspiration: How can the project help news organizations learn from each other? Willingness to share knowledge, open source code and/or contribute to the improvement of the ecosystem overall.

Projects that would NOT qualify for Innovation Challenge funding include:

  1. Projects relating to news coverage only or projects merely translating news content into other languages
  2. Upgrades of legacy publishing systems
  3. Projects that relate to simply collating or listing data (for example, the publication of job listings or stock exchange data, or the re-publication of newswires articles);
  4. Projects on training or education only
  5. Projects which have not provided clear indicators about the business impact
  6. Projects which do not impact a news organization
  7. Projects which reflect research without implementation

Project Funding

Google will fund up to $250,000 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 application. Google will finance up to 70% of the overall costs of the selected projects. Organizations are expected to detail costs for their projects, and this can include in-kind expenditure (for example, people assigned to the project) as part of their budget. Eligible expenses include engineering and operations costs (e.g. product development, project management, user experience design, database building and maintenance, and hosting), the purchase or licensing of any equipment, tools, hardware, software and other assets or materials needed for the project and marketing expenses (capped to 20% of the total amount requested). Editorial expenses are not part of the eligible costs for the Google-funded portion of a project and will not be covered. Certain editorial expenses, such as personnel costs may be eligible for the self-funded portion of the overall project budget. Funding may not be spent on general and overhead costs. Please note that the effective date for the project will be the date that we signed the funding agreement. No expenses incurred before this date can be covered by the funding.

Governance

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

  1. Fazal Ashfaq
  2. Irene Jay Liu
  3. Nic Hopkins
  4. Aimee Moon
  5. Sheena Bhalla
  6. Ludovic Blecher
  7. Ben Shaw
  8. Jon Sugihara

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 was eligible to apply?
Answer

The Asia-Pacific GNI Innovation Challenge is open to organizations of every size - digital natives, startups, NGOs, industry organizations, broadcasters, traditional news organizations, freelancers, and sole traders - that aim to produce innovative, original journalism and to enlighten citizens with trustworthy journalistic content, and whose projects focus on encouraging a more sustainable news ecosystem. Unincorporated organizations must be registered in Asia-Pacific (or, if unregistered, have their principal place of business there).

What's the theme?
Answer

The second Asia-Pacific GNI Innovation Challenge will focus on projects which increase audience engagement for news providers.

We recognise that your audiences are your lifeblood. Engaging with them opens up new business opportunities and reinforces your brand values which is why we’re looking to back your biggest and boldest ideas around audience engagement.

All ideas are welcome, but we require all projects to have clear indicators showing the potential of the project to create new business opportunities, generate economic value for the business or otherwise breathe new life into your enterprise.

What do we mean by reader engagement?
Answer

Engaged users are more likely to return more often to a news website, visit more pages during a session and are more inclined to sign up for an email newsletter. They are also more likely to convert to paid subscribers. We are interested in hearing ideas and projects to make users become more interested or more actively engaged with your offer.

Whatever the size of your news organisation - from freelancers to large legacy businesses and everything in between - we’re excited to hear your proposals. We also welcome collaborations between news providers.

The range of projects could be varied - everything from analytics to understand the audience better, to using AI to generate story leads or the use of technology to improve the workflow. It could result in a new type of interface or look at different methods of distribution or mean audiences can be more social.

A few examples of reader engagement projects from previous funding programs:

How are projects evaluated?
Answer

Projects will be evaluated against four main criteria:

  1. Impact on the news ecosystem: Projects should demonstrate potential for significant positive impact in respect of audience engagement. Engaged users are more likely to return more often to a news website, visit more pages during a session and are more inclined to sign up for an email newsletter. They are also more likely to convert to paid subscribers. We are interested in hearing big ideas and projects that will impact the way people consume your brand, making it ultimately more successful with the creation of new opportunities.
  2. Innovation: Projects should advance new innovative approaches to creating, distributing, and monetizing digital journalism.
  3. Feasibility: Projects should demonstrate clear indicators and metrics or even a business plan, when relevant, and set out key risks and mitigation steps.
  4. Inspiration: How can the project help news organizations learn from each other? Willingness to share knowledge, open source code and/or contribute to the improvement of the ecosystem overall.

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 have knowledge and/or experience in digital publishing 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

The application window will open October 31st, 2019 9:00 PT and close January 7th, 2020 23:59 PT. Further details will be announced on the GNI website.

How can I apply?
Answer

We will consider applications written in English only. You will be asked to provide descriptions, detailed project plans and budget information in our online application form as well as accept the Asia-Pacific GNI Innovation Challenge Application Terms and Conditions. See the application form here.

How can I best prepare my submission?
Answer

The application window lasts for 9 weeks. Take advantage of this time to document your application as thoroughly as possible, and please download the list of questions in advance. All eligible applications submitted by the deadline will be reviewed, so there’s no need to rush into filling in the online form.

Please take the time to consult and do research on opportunities and investment requirements, brainstorm with your team and prepare the draft responses. Your team will also need to provide clear indicators showing the potential of the project to create specific value for the reader and/or economic value added for the business.

When you are ready, please go to the online form and submit your application. 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:

  1. Company/individual information
  2. Location, URL, number of employees, number of journalists
  3. Project description
  4. Project budget and amount of funding requested
  5. Key indicators to measure the impact of the project
  6. Monetization details showing the potential of the project to create economic value added for the business.
  7. A slideshow of, ideally, 10 slides or fewer which should address at least the following:
    1. Introduction
    2. Team
    3. Problem
    4. Solution
    5. Product
    6. Target Market
    7. Competition
    8. Business Model & opportunities
    9. Appendix
    10. Contact

As set out in the Asia-Pacific GNI Innovation Challenge Terms & Conditions, we require that applicants do not submit any Business Sensitive Information (as defined in the Application Terms and Conditions). Google intends to publicize 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 publicize aggregated data showing how funds have been offered 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 interviews and/or the submission of further supporting documents.

How many applications can I submit?
Answer

Each applicant may only submit one application, and we will not consider multiple applications for 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. Organizations and 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 use the responses to assess the projects.

Application information received by the Project Team and Jury will be exclusively used for GNI Challenge operations and processes. Google will only share detailed application information outside the Project Team and Jury 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 (featuring projects at events, case studies, etc).

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 engineering and operations costs (e.g. product development, project management, user experience design, database building and maintenance, and hosting) and marketing expenses. Please note marketing expenses will only be covered up to 20% of the total funding offered. Editorial costs are eligible only in the self-funded portion of a project budget. Funding may not be spent on general and overhead costs (e.g. office rental, travel costs, etc.).

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 or would otherwise 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. 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. The email for contact is 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’s Jury.

What is the role of The Jury?
Answer

Challenge oversight and final approval will be decided by a Jury composed of regional and global Google executives and might be open to external experts. They will receive and review a list of shortlisted projects and will vote for the final selection based on the Project Team’s recommendations.

Who is part of the Project Team?
Answer

The Project Team will consist of internal stakeholders responsible for ensuring and communicating the success of the GNI Innovation Challenge. The team should include, but not be limited to:

  • Fazal Ashfaq
  • Iren Jay Liu
  • Nic Hopkins
  • Aimee Moon
  • Sheena Bhalla
  • Ludovic Blecher
  • Ben Shaw
  • Jon Sugihara

Who is part of The Jury?
Answer

Jury is composed of regional and global Google executives and might be open to external experts.