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Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge Launches in the Middle East and Africa

Madhav Chinnappa, Director for News Ecosystem Development

Google announced the launch of the Google News Initiative (GNI) Innovation Challenge, a call for projects from traditional publishers of every size, news startups and associations in the Middle East and Africa to submit project proposals for funding. The theme of the challenge is to increase reader engagement and / or explore new business models. Some project examples are personalization, analytics, audio & voice applications, subscription, membership & loyalty programs.

This initiative was announced at Google’s event for news publishers in Dubai, where regional and global executives presented the latest products and tools for publishers and journalists across revenue generation, Google News, Google Search, YouTube and Cloud Machine Learning.

Speaking at the event on Tuesday,  Madhav Chinnappa, Director for News Ecosystem Development, said: “News publishers in many parts of the world are grappling with questions of how quality journalism can thrive in the digital age. With economic models changing and new ways in which people are consuming news, innovation in the news industry has never been more important.”

Ludovic Blecher, Head of the Google News Initiative Innovation, said: “We’re excited to bring the GNI Challenge to the Middle East and Africa. We want to make sure that all news organizations, large and small, legacy publishers as well as news startups, have the opportunity to inject new ideas into the local and regional news industry.”

A panel will evaluate the submissions and fund selected projects up to $150k, and up to 70 percent of the total project cost. The funding will be reviewed against several criteria, including a “knowledge sharing component” –  for example, a project proposal can include publishing findings or holding a public seminar to encourage applicants to share the knowledge and learnings with others. The application window for project submissions will open in June. More information on eligibility, rules and criteria, and funding will be published on the Google News Initiative website in May.

The Google News Initiative is Google’s effort to help news players in their transition to a digital future, focusing on three pillars: First, elevating and strengthening quality journalism, second, evolving business models to drive sustainable growth and third, empowering news organizations through technological innovation. Last year, Google announced it will train four thousand journalists on digital tools for journalism across six countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

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