Google News Initiative plans to launch an “innovation challenge” aimed at finding new ways to engage readers and increase revenue in the Middle East and Africa for the first time this year, Google announced on Tuesday.
“It’s a call for projects from all news innovators in the region,” explained Ludovic Blecher, the head of Google news initiative innovation.
“What we want to do here is offer the opportunity to rest new ideas, try new things and give room, space and fresh air to try new things in news.”
The programme, which is open to anyone involved in the news ecosystem, will see winning projects be awarded with 70 percent of the necessary funding, which Google will cap at $150,000.
“It’s going to be all about readers, and it can be reader engagement or reader revenue,” Blecher added.
“It can be anything that will help deepen the link between a news publication and the audience, such as personalisation, content recommendations or computing journalism that will help to produce automatic pieces of content, or building a specific [analytics] dashboard that can help make decision.”
Alternatively, projects will also be considered that seek to find ways to diversify revenue streams, such as through loyalty, membership of subscription programmes.
“We are not funding pure content creation,” Blecher said. “This is not about funding reporting or even multimedia stories. It’s about funding technology.”
Although the winning IP will belong to the recipient, the winner will be required to participate in “knowledge sharing” with other news organisations in the industry, with ‘shareability’ being an important criteria.
In March, Google announced that it would allocate $30 million over the next two years to launch five editions of the challenge programme covering North America, the Middle East and Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Asia Pacific.
The programme stems from an earlier programme, the Digital News Initiative (DNI), which focused exclusively on Europe.
Previous DNI funding recipients have included an online service from the Irish Times to provide tailored content to members of the Irish diaspora and personalised daily briefings from Italy’s Good Morning Italia.
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