If you’re passionate about local news and bursting with ideas about its future there’s still time to enter the GNI Innovation Challenge to stimulate local news in North America. The activity is part of the Google News Initiative’s $300M commitment to help journalism thrive in the digital age. Funding of up to $300,000 is available for eligible projects and we expect there to be many hundreds of applications. So how best to prepare and stand out from the crowd? Here’s our top tips to get you started. Good luck!
- What’s the problem?
As Albert Einstein famously said: “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” Have you identified the problem that you are looking to solve? Can you express it succinctly? It’s well-known that local news organisations face many challenges so be specific rather than general. For example it could be something that reduces friction in the day-to-day operations, a completely new product or a mobile first approach. Whatever the plan, it must be a project which aims to generate revenue or increase audience engagement for local news.
- Projects must be local news related
This may seem obvious but sometimes it’s easy to miss the fundamental point of the GNI Innovation Challenges when ideas start to form in your mind. Do some research on successful recipients from past innovation programs such as those who produced ideas for a new kind of paywall or a new way of distributing news. Others produced new thinking on an organization’s workflows and the way social media unlocks audiences. But always remember that it’s all about local news.
- Impact on the ecosystem
This is an important element and one of the four criteria that your application will be judged against. Your application should state how your ideas can have an impact on the news ecosystem. For example, this could mean partnering with other companies to realise a tool that can be beneficial for you as well as for others or, although not mandatory, it could be that you’d choose to opensource the code for others to utilise. Maybe you’ll document all the processes for a new approach you’ve taken in order to inspire others or it could be that you demonstrate something that’s never been tried before. Bear in mind that a key intent of the Innovation Challenges is to produce learnings and thought leadership that can be shared with the wider industry.
- Why you?
Tell the assessors about you and your team. Why are you the best person/people to be doing this project? What relevant experience have you had? This is your opportunity to sell yourselves so make the most of it.
- What’s innovative about your idea?
This is another of those four criteria that your application will be judged against.Thinking of innovative ideas doesn’t mean that you have to create a new technology from scratch. A lot of successful projects are based on the assembly of existing technologies in order to create a different and new user experience. Take the opportunity to brainstorm with your team. Do research on likely competitors and understand your point of difference (USP). We intentionally don’t define what innovation means but instead ask you to explain why your project is innovative. And remember, it’s not all about the tech — it’s your own innovation journey and approach that excites us.
- Feasibility criteria
You will need to demonstrate that your project is not just wishful thinking. It must be something doable and something that you can do. What will success look like for your project? How will you measure that? Identify the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the project and be clear about its timeline. These are the key indicators you will use to track progress. Typically they would describe the change that will occur such as the increase in the number of subscribers or the level of activity in the community. We will also ask you to outline the total costs of your project, so do take some time to understand the cost of everything needed to deliver it for example staff, equipment and project management. Also take note that the details of items that are ineligible, such as editorial and travel expenses. Editorial costs in the North America Innovation Challenge will not be covered by the funding but can be included in the applicants’ own contribution to the project. More information can be seen by downloading the Terms and Conditions available in the FAQs.
- Download the application form
There’s no need to rush into filling in the online form as all eligible applications submitted by the deadline of July 15 will be reviewed. Take advantage of the remaining time to document your application as thoroughly as possible, and do download the list of questions in advance. When you are ready, please go to the online form to submit your application and don’t forget to email the slidedeck in support. Details of the basic information that’s needed in the ten slide deck are explained at the FAQs. If you need additional information, please do contact email@example.com — we’re here to help.
We’d also invite you to tune in to our webinar Town Hall on YouTube, Tuesday, June 25 at 10.00 a.m. Pacific where we’ll run through the process and be available to answer any questions. See you there!