Google has announced the news projects and initiatives from 14 different countries set to take home $2.1 million in funding.
Google says this year’s initiative placed an emphasis on projects that reflect and demonstrate a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in the news industry. Google launched the open call for applications in February and received 329 applications from 35 countries then a rigorous review, a round of interviews and a final jury selection process followed. Google will be following their progress alongside the previous recipients who are already impacting the news ecosystem with initiatives that increase reader engagement and make for a more sustainable future of news.
Here is the full list of the projects and initiatives:
Habari RDC: Mobile application offering videos and podcasts accessible by subscription. Habari RDC aims to diversify its sources of income by providing paid content (videos and podcasts) to its users. However, the technological environment of the country is not conducive to such a project. There is no single local streaming player. This project for a tool to offer paid content will focus on the user experience of subscribers, many of which do not have bank cards.
Egab is a online platform that enables local journalists across the Middle East and Africa to pitch stories in any format or language to the editors of regional and international media outlets. The pitches available through the platform will be original and distinct, allowing media outlets to discover authentic stories to be produced by locals at a lower cost and to reach areas, where they have no presence. The platform specialises in solutions journalism; a genre focused on reporting how people are responding to problems in their own communities. Solutions journalism has been shown to significantly engage audiences, especially younger ones.
Globally, news organisations are struggling to engage audiences (especially younger ones) and to find original stories. At the same time, up-and-coming local journalists are struggling to connect with international media outlets. Our solution is a platform connecting local journalists to news outlets to produce and sell original, engaging and inspiring stories at a lower cost.
Standard Group PLC’s Messenger Reader Revenue project integrates bots and AI onto a WhatsApp number as well as a USSD platform that the audience can prompt and interact with to access news and other content categories of interest. The product will be on a subscription basis where the audience can select their content category then pay for the content of choice via mobile money, MPESA. The content offering will be uniquely curated content across different content categories such as on farming, investigative content etc that will be conveyed through text, audio and videos.
Messenger Reader Revenue aims to solve two challenges being faced by the media:
Declining revenue from legacy products. The audience has shifted to digital platforms where they consume content hence in attempt to recover declining revenue we will curate and monetize content on the messenger platforms.
Audience changing consumption habits. The audience in Kenya consumes content via digital and messaging platforms where fake news thrives, hence as through the solution we are able to offer verified news and curated content for the audience.
Société des Nouveaux Médias (in English: Company of the new media)
Medias24 Morocco Data Hub Economy: After concentrating our efforts on writing articles and video, we will introduce economic information in the form of data in a massive and permanent way in our daily work.
We have assembled a team of journalists, data scientists, data analysts, developers and marketing, who will devote themselves full time to data.
These data, which will be stored and used through APIs, will be available in the form of dashboards to:
editorial staff for understanding as well as integration into articles.
those who wish to launch collaborative projects.
Solution: Moroccan economic data is spread all over the web: we struggle to find what we are exactly looking for, there is no platform for accessing all economic data.
The user does not find an intelligent, automated, daily updated economic aggregated data. our solution is Morocco’s economic data hub. This aggregates all Moroccan data and enables users to access them easily and quickly through an intuitive and interactive dashboard: statistical data, correlation, news events, historical analysis, insights, etc..
Provide users with advanced analytical tools to gather quick insights and hints.Leverage AI & machine learning to drive and leverage fact-based decision making.
Richmond Hill Media Limited (Ripples Nigeria)
Eco-Nai+ is Nigeria’s first digital geo-journalism platform providing access to interactive geo-data through web and mobile applications. It will host environmental data such as on drought, rainfall and erosion, while carefully tracking and marking changes to environmental phenomena to establish the incidence of climate change.
Eco-Nai+ will rely on a range of data sources including: verified user-generated data (from members of impacted communities), data from official sources, own-generated data and from reliable open source geo-data platforms like Google Earth.
The project has a broad range of targets including journalists, environmentalists, farmers, researchers, public policy formulators and at-risk residents.
Solution: Project Eco-Nai+ is seeking to solve two major related problems. The first being the shared global challenge of climate change, and the second being inadequate local response to climate change due to disparities in knowledge of the crisis and capacity to contribute to solutions.
In Nigeria, we are on the negative end of the disparities. There is very limited appreciation of the crisis of climate change in communities, and a wide-ranging lack of capacity to aggregate, interpret and deploy data on the environment. Eco-Nai+ is designed to solve these problems through broadening access to environmental data for both residents and workers as well as professionals such as journalists, environmentalists, researchers and policy formulators.
ReCo improves user experience by making content recommendations based on the users’ preferences on the home page and within articles. ReCo shows highly relevant content and, as a result, metrics like page views and session duration will increase. In the long run, readers’ loyalty will also boost with demand for certain topics being met.
Solution: Digital publishers are competing for users’ attention with social media, news aggregators and streaming services that have advanced personalization features.
Knowing the audience and suggesting content of their interest, gives a competitive advantage and grows their interest in news content overall.
It’s a number one task to put readers first and inform them about matters they care about. ReCo increases metrics including time on page, session duration, depth, page views, etc. and grows a loyal audience.
Stears News Limited (Operating Company), Stears Information Services (Holding Company)
If the future of sustainable media is direct reader revenue, then African publishers are still poorly equipped with the billing infrastructure required to collect regular payments from readers. This product is a subscription management service offering for the media industry, which allows publishers, bloggers and creatives to open up new revenue streams for themselves. As media pivots towards direct reader revenue, we are building a plug-and-play subscription platform that makes revenue collection easy. The project is crucial for the publishing industry to take charge of its own technology needs, by ensuring solutions are built by publishers, for publishers.
Solution: A primary pain point for African publishers is the lack of technology infrastructure that makes it easy, fast and efficient to enable recurring revenue from readers, contributors or members. Off the shelf billing solutions, widely available in international markets, are not built with African users or publishers in mind.
Building an easy to use subscription management service that enables African publishers to monetise their audiences without technical expertise. At its core, it will integrate recurring payment workflows for publishers to manage, track and organise readers using multiple payment providers.
Olduvai Pty: Scrolla.Africa’s DataLite platform makes essential and entertaining news available to the millions of people across southern Africa currently excluded from news due to unaffordable data costs. The DataLite site automatically repackages content from Scrolla’s core news site – featuring an exciting mix of breaking news, politics, sport, celebrities, music and religion. The ultra-lean DataLite platform is designed to be accessible even on the smallest smartphone screens, maximising the ability of underrepresented audiences to access high quality, popular content.
Solution: Data costs in South Africa, and the other African markets which Scrolla.Africa will expand to, are generally very high – especially for pay-as-you-go users, who represent the vast majority. This means that accessing independent, accurate, and fun news is often an unaffordable luxury. Scrolla DataLite will provide a clean, easy-to-navigate platform – with all of Scrolla.Africa’s content in English and Zulu, but without the burden of normal data costs.
The Citizen Bulletin (Zimbabwe Centre for Media and Information Literacy)- is an open-source WhatsApp bot for news distribution and audience engagement. By leveraging WhatsApp Business API, small and medium sized newsrooms will be able to legally use the messaging application to distribute their content en masse while they engage new and existing users without violating the platform’s terms and privacy policies.
Solution: As the usage of social media platforms increases, local newsrooms are beginning to see the need to meet readers where they already are. In many developing media markets, including Zimbabwe, WhatsApp is one of the most important platforms for news distribution. However, to use the platform for engagement, news outlets can begetting banned for violating WhatsApp user terms and policies. To use the platform for engagement, a newsroom needs to get access to the WhatsApp Business API, a legally permissible and scalable way to engage with audiences on the platform.
To provide an alternative to radio with the establishment of a podcast network. Zimbabwe is a highly polarised country with few independent media outlets. Radio is the easiest media to access for most Zimbabweans.