See application for your region
///regionCtrl.selectedOption///
///option.name///

What is the GNI Innovation Challenge?

Introduction

As part of this program, the GNI will fund a set of projects from around the world that meet specified criteria, with the intent of producing learning and thought leadership to share with the wider industry.

The GNI’s first Innovation Challenge in the Middle East, Africa & Turkey Region focused on reader engagement and new business models in any form. Google will fund selected projects up to USD $150,000 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 a very large collaborative effort.

Applications Closed

Application Process

The application window opened on 12 June 2019 at 10 GMT (11am London time), and closed on Monday, September 2 at 23:59 GMT. The application window is now closed. 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 Middle East, Africa and Turkey GNI Innovation Challenge Application Terms and Conditions.

Application Eligibility Requirements

The Middle East, Africa and Turkey GNI Innovation Challenge was open to organizations of every size, including freelancers and sole traders, that aim to produce innovative, original journalism and to enlighten citizens with trustworthy journalistic content, whose projects focus on encouraging a more sustainable news ecosystem.

Eligible Regions

Incorporated organizations needed to be incorporated in one of the eligible countries within (countries listed in Terms & Conditions) in the Middle East, Africa and Turkey. Unincorporated organizations needed to be registered in the Middle East, Africa and Turkey or, if unregistered, have their principal place of business based in the region.

Eligible Projects

All ideas were welcome but we required all projects to have clear indicators showing the impact of the project from a user perspective and/or from a business perspective (eg: audience indicators, business plan when relevant). Successful projects will also need to be delivered within one year.

We encouraged innovative projects - focused on but not limited to- the areas below:

  • Business Models
  • Distribution
  • Interface
  • Social
  • Workflow

Projects could be experimental but must be measurable with well-defined goals. We encouraged applicants 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 on the creation of new revenue streams and/or change the way people consume digital news.
  2. Innovation: Preferred projects will be innovative (use of technology, business model, new reader engagement approaches etc) and be 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 or/and to 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 newswire articles);
  4. Projects on training or education only
  5. Projects which do not have any monetization component
  6. Projects which do not impact a news organization
  7. Projects which reflect research without implementation

Project Funding

Google will fund up to $150k for 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 personnel costs, engineering costs and the purchase or licensing of any equipment, tools, hardware, software and other assets or materials needed for the project as well as marketing expenses (capped to 20% of the total amount requested). Editorial expenses are not part of the eligible costs and will not be covered. Funding may not be spent on general and overhead costs.

Governance

Applications to the Middle East, Africa & Turkey 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 applicants and then make a recommendation on funding projects. The Project Team includes, but is not limited to:

  • Joyce Baz - Head of Communications, MENA
  • Ludovic Blecher - Head of Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge
  • Sarah Hartley - Applicants and Recipients Manager, Google News Initiative
  • Or Liban - Head of Global Partnerships, Russia & Israel
  • Akbur Ghafour - Lead, gTech Professional Services - Emerging Markets
  • Mich Atagana - Communications manager, South Africa

The Jury will vote on projects and is responsible for oversight of the GNI Challenge.

FAQs

Who is eligible to apply?
Answer

The Middle East, Africa & Turkey GNI Innovation Challenge was open to organizations of every size, including freelancers and sole traders, that aim to produce innovative, original journalism and to enlighten citizens with trustworthy journalistic content, 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 (see below) in the Middle East, Africa & Turkey region. Unincorporated organizations must be registered in the region (or, if unregistered, have their principal place of business there).

What was the theme of the first call for projects?
Answer

The first Middle East, Africa & Turkey GNI Innovation Challenge focused on projects which increase reader engagement and/or explore new business models to build a stronger future for journalism.

What do we mean by reader engagement?

Engaged users are more likely to return more often to 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 were interested in hearing big ideas and projects to make users become more interested or more actively engaged with your offer.

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:

What do we mean by new business models?

We welcomed innovative business models - these are moves which go beyond the traditional means to generate revenues and can create customer loyalty, make value in unusual ways, and define new products or services. Efforts in the area of subscriptions, membership schemes and other ways to focus on reader revenues were encouraged.

Examples of business model projects from previous funding programs:

All ideas were welcome but we required all projects to have a monetization component and to provide explicit plans for monetization with clear indicators showing the potential of the project 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: Projects should demonstrate potential for significant positive impact on the creation of new revenue streams and/or change the way people consume digital news.
  2. Innovation: Preferred projects in innovative (use of technology, business model, new reader engagement approaches etc) ways and be transformative for the applicant and for users.
  3. Feasibility: Project should demonstrate a 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 or/and to 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 the digital publishing and journalism. They will review all applications for eligibility, innovation and impact. They’ll compose a shortlist, conduct interviews with a selection of applicants and make recommendations to the Middle East, Africa & Turkey GNI Innovation Challenge Jury.

When could people apply?
Answer

The application window was open from 12 June 2019 at 10 GMT (11am London time), and closed on Monday, September 2 at 23:59 GMT. The application window is now closed.

How could people apply?
Answer

We considered 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 Middle East, Africa & Turkey GNI Innovation Challenge Application Terms and Conditions.

How could people best prepare submissions?
Answer

The application window lasted for 7 weeks. We advised applicants to take advantage of that time to document applications as thoroughly as possible and advised them to download the list of questions in advance. All eligible applications submitted by the deadline will be reviewed.

What information was required for applications?
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. If relevant for your project, provide 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 or key added value & opportunities
    9. Appendix
    10. Contact

As set out in the Middle East, Africa & Turkey GNI Innovation Challenge Terms & Conditions, we required that applicants did 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 the 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 Middle East, Africa & Turkey GNI Innovation Challenge Terms & 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 meagnichallenge@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 per round?
Answer

Each applicant could only submit one application per round and we will not consider multiple applications in respect of 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 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 will 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 required that applicants did 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:

Editorial costs and general and overhead costs such as office rental, furniture and travel expenses, costs and expenses connected with registering, protecting, defending or monetising 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 build 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 not eligible. Funding may not be spent on general and overhead costs (eg: office rental, travel costs etc).

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.

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 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 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 meagnichallenge@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. They might be joined by experts from the industry.

This group will include Google’s regional and global executives and may be open to up to 2 experts from the news industry.

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 includes, but is not be limited to:

  • Joyce Baz - Head of Communications, MENA
  • Ludovic Blecher - Head of Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge
  • Sarah Hartley - Applicants and Recipients Manager, Google News Initiative
  • Or Liban - Head of Global Partnerships, Russia & Israel
  • Akbur Ghafour - Lead, gTech Professional Services - Emerging Markets
  • Mich Atagana - Communications manager, South Africa
Who is part of the Jury?
Answer

Jury is composed of regional and global Google executives. They might be joined by experts from the industry.