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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 launched GNI Innovation Challenges in Latin America to support projects that focus on new business models and new news products. The GNI will fund projects from around the world that meet specified criteria, with the intention of producing learning and thought leadership for the wider industry.

Google will fund selected projects up to USD $250,000 and will finance up to 70 percent of the total project cost. The Jury can choose to increase the project cap for some large collaborative efforts with significant ecosystem impact.

Applications closed

Application Process

The application window was open from June 6th, 2019 6:00 Mexico City (GMT-5) until July 22nd, 2019 23:59 Mexico City (GMT-5) . Only online applications in English were considered. Applicants were asked to provide descriptions, detailed project plans and budget information via our online application form. They also accepted the Latin American GNI Innovation Challenge Application Terms and Conditions.

Application Eligibility Requirements

The Latin America GNI Innovation Challenge was open to organizations of every size - digital natives, startups, NGOs, industry organizations, broadcasters, traditional news organizations, freelancers, and sole traders - whose projects focus on encouraging a more sustainable news ecosystem. Organizations must be incorporated or based in one of the eligible countries in the Latin America region as outlined below.

Eligible Regions

Organizations must be incorporated in one of the eligible countries (listed below) within the Latin America region.

Eligible geographies are (in alphabetical order):

  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Mexico
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela

Eligible Projects

The first GNI Innovation Challenge in Latin America focused on projects that help build a more sustainable ecosystem for digital news in Latin America through the development of new business models and new news products. All innovative ideas were welcome and projects can be experimental but must have well-defined goals and measurable impact. There’s no requirement to use Google products for the project. We encouraged applicants to clearly demonstrate the value of the project by providing actionable key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs should further the news organizations’ digital news objectives (i.e., digital subscription growth, online daily active users, digital ad revenue, etc.). Special consideration will be given to collaborative projects involving multiple news organizations. Successful projects will also need to be delivered within one year.

Projects will be evaluated against four main criteria:

  1. Impactful: Preferred projects will demonstrate the potential for significant impact on a problem relevant to the broader news ecosystem.
  2. Innovative: Projects should advance new innovative approaches to creating, distributing, and monetizing digital journalism.
  3. Feasible: Preferred projects will have a detailed business plan when relevant, clearly outline key performance indicators or metrics, and identify key risks and how to mitigate them.
  4. Inspirational: Can other news organizations learn from or replicate the project? Is the news organization willing to share knowledge across the news ecosystem?

Projects that would NOT qualify for Innovation Challenge funding include:

  1. Projects that are limited to the creation or publication of content without a component to further a new news product or business model are not eligible for funding.
  2. Projects merely translating news content into other languages
  3. Upgrades of legacy publishing systems
  4. 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);
  5. Projects providing only training or education
  6. Projects which do not have any indicators to demonstrate their potential sustainability
  7. Projects focused on only research without implementation or execution-oriented elements

Digital Native News Incubator

Later this year, in addition, but separated to the Innovation Challenge, we will be launching the Digital Native Incubator in Brazil. The program will support a number of early stage digital native news teams and provide them with incubation support, training, and Google tools & products to build sustainable news organizations. During the Innovation Challenge application process, early-stage news organizations can indicate if they are interested in participating in the digital native incubator and would like to learn more.

Project Funding

Google will award up to $250,000 for selected projects. The Jury can choose to increase the project cap for some large collaborative efforts with significant ecosystem impact. Google will finance up to 70% of the overall costs of the selected projects.

Organizations were expected to detail costs for their projects. Costs can include in-kind expenditures (for example, the cost associated with employees assigned to the project) as part of their budget. Other eligible expenses include engineering and operations costs (e.g. product development, project management, user experience design, database build 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 percent 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 applicants' own-funded portion of the overall project budget. Funding may not be spent on the organization's general, administrative, and overhead costs. Please note that the effective date for the project will be the date that Google countersigns the funding agreement. No expenses incurred before this date can be covered by the funding.

Governance

Applications to the Latin America GNI Innovation Challenge are reviewed by a combination of the Google Project Team and a Jury. The Project Team will review all applications and interview a selection of the applicants before making a recommendation on funding projects. The Project Team includes, but is not limited to:

  • Marco Túlio Pires (News Lab Lead, Brazil)
  • Ludovic Blecher (Head of GNI Innovation)
  • Erica Noda (Strategy & Industry Relations Manager, Brazil)
  • Barbara Sarti (Strategic Partner Development, Spanish Speaking Latin America)
  • Samuel Yañez (Strategic Partner Manager, Mexico)
  • Arun Venkataraman (Google News Initiative, Global Strategy & Operations Lead)
  • Juan Manuel Lucero (News Lab Lead, Argentina)
  • Luiz Henrique Matos (Head of Brazil, Global Partnerships)

The Jury, a mix of Google executives and external experts from the Latin America news industry, will vote on shortlisted projects and is responsible for oversight of the GNI Challenge.

FAQs

Who was eligible to apply?
Answer

The Latin America GNI Innovation Challenge was open to any news organization -- digital natives, startups, NGOs, industry organizations, broadcasters, traditional news organizations, freelancers, and sole traders -- were eligible to participate. Organizations must be incorporated in one of the eligible countries (see below) in the Latin America region.

Eligible geographies are (in alphabetical order):

  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Mexico
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela
What's the theme of the call for project?
Answer

The first Latin America GNI Innovation Challenge focused on projects that help build a more sustainable ecosystem for digital news in Latin America through the development of new business models and new news products.

All ideas were welcome but we required all projects to provide clear key metrics for success and projected economic impact to the business and / or news industry. Special consideration was given to collaborative projects presented together by multiple news organizations.

How are projects evaluated?
Answer

Projects will be evaluated against four main criteria:

  1. Impactful: Preferred projects will demonstrate the potential for significant impact on a problem relevant to the broader news ecosystem.
  2. Innovative: Projects should advance new innovative approaches to creating, distributing, and monetizing digital journalism.
  3. Feasible: Preferred projects will have a detailed business plan when relevant, clearly outline key performance indicators or metrics, and identify key risks and how to mitigate them.
  4. Inspirational: Can other news organizations learn from or replicate the project? Is the news organization willing to share knowledge across the news ecosystem?
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 Latin America GNI Innovation Challenge Jury.

When could I apply?
Answer

The application window was open from June 6th, 2019 6:00 a.m. Mexico City (GMT-5) until July 22nd, 2019 23:59 Mexico City (GMT-5) Time. The application window is now closed.

How did people apply?
Answer

We consider applications written in English only. Applicants were asked to provide descriptions, detailed project plans and budget information in our online application form as well as accept the Latin America GNI Innovation Challenge Application Terms and Conditions.

How did people prepare their submission?
Answer

The application window lasted for 7 weeks. Applicants were advised to take advantage of this time to document their application as thoroughly as possible and were able to download the list of questions in advance. All eligible applications submitted by the deadline will be reviewed.

What information was 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. Demonstration of the potential sustainability of the project, including, if relevant, monetization details.
  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 Latin America GNI Innovation Challenge Terms & Conditions, we required that applicants do not submit any Business Sensitive Information (as 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 offered in the GNI Innovation Challenges and certain project-specific information.

What if applicants wanted to work in collaboration with others?
Answer

Collaborative applications with other industry players were very welcome.

Where can I read a full copy of the terms and conditions?
Answer

You can find the Latin America GNI Innovation Challenge Terms and Conditions here.

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 latamgnichallenge@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 could be submitted per round?
Answer

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

What will you do with the information submitted?
Answer

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

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) and marketing expenses. Please note marketing expenses will only be covered up to 20 percent of the total funding offered. 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.

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.

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 applicants hear back about applications?
Answer

If an application is shortlisted, the applicant 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. They will be contacted by email and a video meeting arranged 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 the applicant learn more about why?
Answer

Unfortunately, due to the high volume of applications expected, the Project Team is unable to provide personalised 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 latamgnichallenge@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 comprised of Google staff and experienced industry figures. This group will include Google's regional and global executives and 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 project's team 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. Team should include, but not be limited to:

  • Marco Túlio Pires (News Lab Lead, Brazil)
  • Ludovic Blecher (Head of GNI Innovation)
  • Erica Noda (Strategy & Industry Relations Manager, Brazil)
  • Barbara Sarti (Partner Development Associate, Spanish Speaking Latin America)
  • Samuel Yañez (Strategic Partner Manager, Mexico)
  • Arun Venkataraman (Google News Initiative, Global Strategy & Operations Lead)
  • Juan Manuel Lucero (News Lab Lead, Argentina)
  • Luiz Henrique Matos (Head of Brazil, Global Partnerships)
Who is part of The Jury?
Answer

The Jury is composed of regional and global Google executives and external experts.

What is the News Startup Incubator?
Answer

Later this year, in addition, but separated to the Innovation Challenge, we will be launching the Digital Native Incubator in Brazil. The program will support a number of early stage digital native news teams and provide them with incubation support, training, and Google tools & products to build sustainable news organizations. During the Innovation Challenge application process, early-stage news organizations can indicate if they are interested in participating in the digital native incubator and would like to learn more.