People & Money

Google Launches Second News Initiative in Africa

It supports projects that increase reader engagement and explore new business models for the media.

Google has announced the second Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge in Africa, with an “open call for projects that increase reader engagement and explore new business models for media.”

The first GNI Innovation Challenge saw 21 projects in 13 countries receive funding last year. Awardees were from Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Turkey, and the UAE.

In Nigeria, Ringier Africa Digital Publishing was awarded funding to increase personalisation across its platform using a blend of prediction, recommendation, and local information pages to increase user engagement. Kenyan awardee Africa Uncensored is aggregating news from members of the public to produce at scale.

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In South Africa, Daily Maverick developed a “relevancy engine” for small and medium publishers to help them aggregate better reader insights to increase relevancy and increase subscriptions.

Applications opened on Tuesday and run until April 12, 2021. Established publishers, online-only players, news startups, publisher consortia, and local industry associations are eligible to apply. Interested organisations can apply here.

“The selected projects will be funded up to $150 000, and up to 70 percent of the total project cost,” says Ludovic Blecher, head of innovation at GNI.

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“Funding is not available for editorial projects, but should instead be focused on reader engagement and exploring new business models. Google does not take any equity or IP in any projects or submissions. We are looking forward to seeing new ideas, projects and big bets come out of the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa, a region rich with talent, potential, and opportunity!”

Applications must be made via the website and are open until Monday, April 12 at 23:59 GMT.

The Google Initiative works with the news industry to help journalism thrive in the digital age. While much of Africa’s media has until now retained a strong reliance on print, growing access to the internet, coupled with rapid uptake in smartphone use, is spurring publishers to change direction.

Ameenah Hassan is an intern at Arbiterz.

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