Second Google News Initiative takes off in Africa, Middle East

*Aimed at projects that increase reader engagement, explore new business models
*Selected projects to be funded up to $150 000

Technology giant, Google has announced take off of the second Google News Initiative (GNI) Innovation Challenge in Africa and the Middle East with an open call for projects that increase reader engagement and explore new business models for media.

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

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. Ringier Africa Digital Publishing in Nigeria 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.

Applications open today, February 23, 2021 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: https://newsinitiative.withgoogle.com//innovation-challenges/middle-east-apply/
According to head of innovation, GNI, Ludovic Blecher, the selected projects will be funded up to $150 000, and up to 70 percent of the total project cost.

“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, 12 April at 23:59 GMT. There will be an online town hall on 3 March at 13.00 GMT with a live presentation on how to apply, with an opportunity to ask questions to the GNI team.