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: AKWABA leverages messaging apps to build paid readership for news outlets in Cote d'Ivoire and emerging markets.
Solution: 84% of internet users in Africa have an instant messaging account. AKWABA help news providers increase readership and monetize through messaging platforms.
Summary: The GhanaWeb reporter is an app (Android+IOS) which enables 4 million monthly visitors to (re-)publish their user-generated content directly on ghanaweb.com. The content will be published- after screening - on a personal micro page on the website or even as a news or opinion article should it meet their editorial guidelines.
GhanaWeb wants to change online publishing from only 'push' into a balance of 'push and pull' and generate more content in that way. The content may be also be more relevant to a specific part of the community.
Easily publish special interest content – local news – special topics
Easily publish content from social media on GhanaWeb
Earn money with the pageviews of the GhanaWeb reporter URL – content
Solution: Online publishers face severe competition from online parties that do not produce content. The production of content is expensive. GhanaWeb will significantly increase the community that produces content, decrease the cost of producing content and get more people to the platform to share their news and opinions with other people. Online publishing becomes more social, more relevant to certain niches and easy to access and operate. More people can earn money with news and content. They will partly distribute the advertising proceeds to the part of the community that produce content.
Summary: NAS News will prototype a platform for interactive video debates dealing with local challenges whereby the general public form the heart of the news generation process, by providing informed opinions, key facts and assessment of local challenges. The easy to set up debates are part of a mobile first access, built on an already developed Mushtarek group ideation platform. The tagged video debates would form a knowledge container as part of an overall well-tagged news content mix. The debates will be facilitated by a network of local correspondents, journalists and activists who have good social media followership and community reputation.
Solution: NAS News addresses how to increase user engagement with local news content and giving the people a voice. Leveraging a mobile first, news social platform that puts local communities at the heart of the news content generation process, providing informed local opinions, key facts and assessment of local socio-economic challenges. The platform supports easy to set up and produce interactive video debates, that will be facilitated by news correspondents, investigative journalists and community activists. They fill a gap in the market to provide a much-needed service that allows local communities a voice in a democratic society.
Summary: Israel Hayom, Israel's most widely circulated newspaper, aims to increase its digital footprint. To do so, it plans to implement a user loyalty program and offer e-commerce benefits to highly engaged users by partnering with third-party vendors. An algorithm-based system would give users points for engagement with our content, both on its website and apps, and on third-party platforms. The more points a user earns, the more and bigger rewards she or he can redeem.
Solution: Attaining user loyalty has become both a major necessity and a major challenge: repeating engaged users drive more page views, increase advertising revenues, and consume better-quality content. As part of a vision to make the news site better differentiated, Israel Hayom has developed a loyalty program to create a graduated incentive for users according to their level of engagement.
Summary: Finding the right mix for the right audience is the magic trick of the editorial work. ML models can amplify accuracy in creating a new, personalized mix, and keeping our products up to date for the digital era.
Solution: One of our many challenges as publishers is to keep our readers constantly interested and curious. Interested in the story they are reading and curious to read more like it. With many other content providers around, this is what will make-or-break readers’ willingness to return to the brand, engage with the content and ensure the ‘next click’ on the site. Without any kind of personalization, keeping a single reader both interested and curious would be impossible, yet finding the right blend of personalization is not an easy task.
Summary: The project is a combination of two separate main components: automation and distribution. With automation of texts and infographics, yNet aims to produce and publish a mass amount of articles from one structured data-set (election results, public schools ranking, socio-economical characteristics etc.) – each article summarizing the data available on a specific city. Then the distribution component kicks in – by sending each user on mobile apps (and in the near future, also users on their WPA mobile site) the article most relevant via push notification.
Solution: With this project yNet wishes to face a major challenge in the digital news landscape: the current inability to produce such large amounts of content from data available to us. Without automation and with limited resources, they were previously forced to take each data-set and produce one article summarizing its findings. The user then has to comb through long and tedious articles - instead of getting the data they were looking for, the most relevant data.
Summary: As the video content universe grows and audience attention scatters, manually-managed methods for operating an online video business underperform. AnyClip’s Luminous Watch disrupts this tradition with a data-supported solution, simplifying workflows and improving business results.
Luminous Watch is an OTT-style video streaming experience that is easily added to any website. Ingesting owned and licensed video into a back-end platform, Luminous Watch uses AI technology to analyze and organize this content into a hub of browsable, monetizable channels and playlists. As viewers engage with this content, the platform automatically understands their content interests and organizes playlists and channels of related content.
Solution: The goal of Luminous Watch is to simplify the workflow of any publisher’s video business strategy: to give publishers the tools they need to source, manage, stream and monetize video content to users in ways that attract advertisers with as little human effort as possible.
The industry-wide impact of Luminous Watch is to democratize how people get their news, shifting from push to pull experiences that embrace personalization versus editorialization, facilitated by technology.
Summary: Zamakan from Sowt is a curated network of high-quality podcasts. It aims to promote podcast discoverability and monetization by helping audiences in the region discover great audio content and podcast producers access revenue opportunities.
Solution: While podcasting in the MENA region and the world is growing rapidly, the podcast ecosystem struggles with two main obstacles: discoverability and monetization. By curating high-quality podcasts from the region and cross-promoting them, the Zamakan network from Sowt will help regional audiences discover new content. In doing so, the network’s aim is to increase total podcast listening time, both by attracting new podcast listeners, and by increasing the listenership of existing audiences. As the audience grows, revenue generation opportunities will increase as well. As such, the Zamakan network will work with existing podcasts to develop revenue opportunities through regional membership, live events and ad sales.
Summary: One of the reasons Google Search, Google Home and applications like SIRI are so advanced is because machines can read English. Over the past five years, the Al Bawaba team has worked with IBM Watson, Open Calais from Thomson Reuters and Rosette to create a granular, vast digital archive from over 19 years of original and syndicated Arabic news content for a platform called ‘DISCO Content Marketplace.’ The problem? Al Bawaba's digital archive is in Arabic. Linguistic complexity and significant variations in the quality of content mean that machines don’t always know what they are looking at. Working with the Google Cloud and Convz Analytics Advisory, this project applies the latest machine-learning techniques to improve semantic search in Arabic.
Solution: Machines still can't read Arabic very well at scale. For publishers with terabytes of Arabic language content, this makes curating, packaging and selling that content to clients really difficult. Al Bawaba's solution is to leverage the Google Cloud and build a ‘trained AI’ capable of semantically understanding and tagging Arabic content with much higher accuracy. This solution won’t simply help transform Al Bawaba's business. It will contribute towards capacity building Arabic language publishing on the Internet itself.
Summary: Aggregating news from members of the public to produce news at scale.
Solution: In conversations with members of the public drawn from informal settlements in Nairobi, some of the region's largest, an air of under and misrepresentation of the issues that affect them the most arises. This project will provide them with a channel to directly air their issues while providing us with an opportunity to map the issues and better cover them.
Summary: Subscription models are being increasingly adopted by the publishing industry in a step in the right direction for recovering from diminishing revenues. Publishers are struggling to attract readers who used to consume their content for free. With dynamic pricing and/or a dynamically metered paywall, manual marketing efforts can be refocused, and smart automation is brought in to make subscriptions more attractive to readers based on their behavior, interests, and purchasing power.
Solution: Pricing a news subscription is a constant task. Publishers sometimes use the $1 entry point to attract readers, but overall revenue becomes too low. This is also not a permanent pricing as it changes back to the full price and risks churn. For metered paywalls, a limit of 3 articles per month, for example, might not be lucrative enough for entertainment readers. Whitebeard will be creating a tool aimed at any publisher with a subscription service, allowing them to choose their price flexibility, and let the system chase readers by presenting offers (price or metering changes) at critical decision moments.
Summary: Because reader’s loyalty should be rewarded, L’Orient-Le Jour will turn the news consumption to benefits. L’OLJ Club is a unique loyalty program that gives benefits for L’Orient-Le Jour subscribers whenever they engage with its content. When the reader subscribes, consumes the news and interacts with the content they will be rewarded. Whether they subscribe to the paper newspaper, digital version, shares the newsletters or the articles on social media they will be automatically eligible for special offers. They will be able to connect to L’OLJ Club platform and can learn about personalized benefits, select preferences from a large catalog and interact with the journalists.
Solution: How to improve subscriber’s loyalty and reduce the churn rates? How to build a strong sense of belonging to a community? L’OLJ Club is the solution! It aims to bring together, readers and writers, in order to create and maintain a healthy symbiotic relationship of content creation and consumption. In a region where loyalty programs are limited to some malls and supermarkets, L’Orient-Le Jour is going to step forward and give the privilege to its subscribers to become members of “L’OLJ Club”.
Summary: Jawla Inc (tour in Arabic). is tech-enabled media start-up on a mission to re-engineer the Arabic web and create more informed societies in the MENA region.
Solution: In the Arabic-speaking world, 58% of its 185 million internet users struggle to find relevant information in Arabic online (Wamda, 2015). Our research shows that most Arabic digital publishers have limited capacity, know-how, and budgets to reach targeted critical niche audiences through digital marketing. As a result, they miss out on serving and monetizing their content to more than half of their potential digital audience. Jawla is an AI/ML-enabled Arabic media web platform that classifies, curates, and distributes thoughtful news information in a relevant, smart, and personalised manner to Arabic internet users.
Summary: TelQuel project aims to empower the voice of Moroccan diaspora through a dedicated platform, offering news from a trusted media brand, services, interactivity and networking. They will develop technological features and implement already existing open source solutions to build a platform offering a large range of tools. Members of the diaspora can share their stories or precious memories, access hyper localized content and be a part of the debate with voting/commenting tool. Articles, videos and podcasts will help share the information easily and create links between a diversified, multilingual community.
Solution: Members of the diaspora represent 13% of the total population of Morocco. In 2019, 3 million Moroccan living abroad visited their home country. Despite these facts, little is done to engage and empower this community. The project intends to achieve that. It is also an opportunity for advertisers to communicate with this community using innovative tools, brand content and classic ads.
Summary: At the core of this project is personalization. Ringier wants to better understand the type of content each reader consumes and ensure they serve them the content that is most relevant to them (personalized) as well as improving delivery. They will also implement changes to the delivery of the newsletter to further drive traffic to the site (which will also help contribute off-site data points) to further develop these user profiles.
Solution: The overall aim of the project is to increase user engagement on the news site. As more and more users bypass editorial platforms in favour of social media networks, the publisher is tasked with finding ways to get them back on the site and engage them once there. While theoretically having ‘something for everyone’ means all readers should have interesting relevant content to consume, the reality is they do not always find those pieces before exiting the site. This project will drive content relevancy through personalisation and to drive engagement (time spent on page & pages viewed per session) on our platform.
Summary: Readers' Call on the News offers readers of The New Times the possibility to submit story ideas on any topic they are interested in. The idea with the most votes is then assigned to a journalist who develops the story alongside the reader. This provides more openness to the newspaper in addition to covering new story ideas from their audience. They want readers to feel part of the same community as the journalists. The goal is also to increase reader engagement in Rwanda, by having readers see themselves and their ideas in the stories.
Solution: : Readers' Call on the News wants to address a general challenge in the media: a distant relationship between journalists and their readers. This creates distrust on one side, an assumption about the audience's need on the other. Readers' Call on the News, will create a bond again to make sure readers' ideas are heard, covered and in the end, that better news is produced about Rwanda.
Summary: Food For Mzansi’s new citizen journalism project will this year empower at least 50 small-scale farmers and farm workers. Targeting three agricultural communities, the citizen journalists will be trained and mentored in basic news reporting, filming and video-editing to tell often overlooked yet compelling stories from their own lives and villages. The content will be published on Food For Mzansi, who is making waves across Africa after winning the best digital news start-up category in the 2019 African Digital Media Awards presented by WAN-IFRA. All 50 new citizen journalists will be remunerated for their services.
Solution: The Food For Mzansi Citizen Journalism Project is aimed at South Africans youth and young small-scale farmers who live in rural communities with limited internet access. Whilst internet penetration around the country’s big cities are quite impressive, research shows that rural provinces have fallen far behind. Most of the people living in these rural provinces are unemployed, whilst those who are employed mostly work in the agricultural sector. They have particularly low literacy rates, and are also being held back by exorbitant mobile data prices which currently excludes them from the news agenda and access to news media.
Summary: Unlocking the power of data is a key element of sustainability and producing more relevant content experiences for readers. Small and medium sized publishers struggle with siloed data stored in disparate systems. The Rev Engine will bring key data from these commonly used systems, like email services providers, CRM, CMS and browsing activities into one central place. This unified version of the reader will help the newsroom create and package more relevant content to individuals, assist in membership/subscriber conversion and offer insights to aid editorial decision-making.
Solution: Small and medium publishers have access to a lot of data but few insights. This is mainly due to the disparate systems that publishers rely on. Structuring that data and housing in a single location to create a unified view of the reader will allow publishers to unlock the power of data previously only available to large corporates.
Summary: With the digital transformation of publishing sector, understanding the reader & content at a fine-grained level became possible. Now, Demirören Teknoloji can measure readers’ interests at the article level. The next step is to detect the meaning of the contents automatically. By implementing an AI system they will be able to seamlessly categorise all their contents, and offer personalized news to readers on the topics that they are interested in.
Solution: Demirören Teknoloji wants to categorise content, at a microsegment level in order to increase readers’ engagement on its platforms. To do this effortlessly, they need an automated system that does not rely on content creators. Named entity recognition is a method that enables extracting entities from a content. Currently, Turkish language processing resources are limited and they are not efficient enough for large scale applications. To address these issues, Demirören Teknoloji decided to develop their own entity recognition tool. By providing the tool as a SAAS on cloud, they hope to offer a Turkish language processing resource.
United Arab Emirates
Summary: The National identified a unique opportunity to develop a new service within the rapidly expanding voice market. The aim is to create a text to speech offering with the help of Google that converts its award-winning content into both English and Arabic in real-time. The new service is designed to support its mission of increasing access to high-quality news across the Middle East.
Solution: Listening to news is becoming more important to consumers and news organisations as device proliferation drives demand for voice offerings. The Middle East is currently underserved by news organisations and big tech companies. High-quality content in Arabic remains quite limited compared to the size of the Arabic-speaking market. The National sees an opportunity to bridge that gap by launching a text to speech service in both English and Arabic, giving the wider audiences access to The National’s high-quality news.
Summary: Aloloom Lil Omoom (Popular Science Arabia) is a leading source that empowers Arab youth with reliable, well-written, science and tech stories. We are expanding our current platform to empower readers across the region with knowledge from researchers and academic sources. Their objective is two-fold: help readers become informed and inspired by reliable science content and empower new voices from the science and academic community in the region. They will provide new, credible, and up to date sources of information and topics relevant to the needs of the region by helping the academic community share stories about their work in science and technology in a simple, engaging and journalistic way.
Solution: There’s a gap between the academic community and the public. Although the academic community is considered as a credible and accurate source of knowledge, there is a shortage in Arabic tools and platforms that can help them share their research and breakthroughs in a language accessible to the public can consume. This project intends to lower the barrier to entry and expand the reach of the academic community and build a highway between the science readers and producers. They are filling the gap by building a platform that will become the destination for the academic community share science and tech stories with the Arabic-speaking world. This platform will allow authors to follow a simple, hassle-free process where they collaborate with editors.