What the five 2017 Walkley innovation grantees are up to

What happens after you win a grant to build an innovative journalism project? You get to work.

In May we announced the five funding recipients for the 2017 Walkleys Media Incubator and Innovation Fund. These five projects stood out as genuinely exciting and important, despite fierce competition during our intensive online incubator for the top 100 or so projects and then face to face bootcamps for the shortlisted projects.

Here’s what the five winning teams did next. They’re only just getting started, but it’s exciting to see them forging ahead.

Burn the Register — up and running!

Jackson Gothe-Snape was our major grant recipient this year. He was awarded $35,000 to lead a community journalism initiative to digitise our federal politicians’ register of interests.

At the moment, the register is a series of PDFs linked to each politician, detailing what they’ve received as gifts and hospitality, but also their investments including property and shares.

This information is all tucked neatly away in PDFs, which means it’s unsearchable. But not for long.

Gothe-Snape launched the site for Burn the Register at an event at the Canberra Press Gallery and began recruiting a bunch of volunteers. The team is 30-strong so far and they are planning a Sydney launch for October.

The volunteers have started sprints: concerted periods of work where they gather online and in Canberra cafes for coffee-fuelled transcription marathons, typing out the PDFs of different politicians.

The system allows people to select which MP they want to work on. The team has already completed several politicians, including Tony Abbott, Julie Bishop, Anthony Albanese, and Labor senators Catryna Bilyk and Lisa Singh.

Gothe-Snape says the most useful tip he learned throughout the incubator program and since has been that it’s ok to ask for help.

“So much of journalism is solo work. But it’s much more fun when you’re working with others,” he told the Walkleys.

The community is hoping to grow to about 200 active contributors. Want to help this project get done faster? Get involved and sign up here.

Gothe-Snape will walk you through the system via a video call, and then you can contribute whenever you can, from wherever you are.

Jackson Gothe-Snape (third from left) with Burn the Register volunteers, transcribing our MP’s financial interests into a much more accessible and transparent format.

Data Explorer

Kaho Cheung came into the innovation program with a demo product and has been building it out ever since.

He was awarded $10,000 for the Prize for Data Innovation in Journalism presented by iSentia and launched the beta version of his Data Explorer here.

Data Explorer takes public data sets such as those released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the International Monetary Fund, the UK Data Service and the United Nations. Journalists are able to see data as a graph, making it more readily understandable but also to download, embed and use these graphs in their stories.

Since the incubator he has been working directly with the ABS to get maximum value out of the API. He has also made it possible to create an custom URL for each graph, so it can be easily shared with team members and collaborators.

You can check out and starting using Data Explorer here.

Tiny Moguls

Sheree Joseph’s plans for her Gen Y and Z news and content platform shifted significantly throughout the program. She was awarded $10,000 to develop Tiny Moguls, enabling her to work on it full time from the end of November.

Tiny Moguls will experiment with a radically different user experience design, which will have more common with Snapchat and Tinder (which young people use by the millions) compared to say the homepage of an established newspaper (which they engage with far less).

But it also has a different editorial focus. It seeks to combine activism and social progress with news — sharing the news with an engagement seeking, community building, and a can-do attitude.

“We know young people are no longer just passive consumers of news, but are consumed by it, sometimes in negative ways,” Joseph told the Walkleys. “They want to do something productive and constructive with what they’re reading — either a tweet, a post, a filter, a meme, a blog post in response, a protest, a rally, a campaign. When they’re done reading something, that’s when it really begins.”

Jospeh is currently experimenting with the business model and working with a small team on research, design and development. They are hoping to launch the beta version of the product in early to mid-2018.

“The most powerful thing I learned in the program has been how important it is to not rush building something just for the sake of having a platform where you end up doing things the way they’ve always been done,” Joseph told the Walkleys.

“You need to think about the bigger mission of what you’re trying to achieve and how or if there really is a gap in the market for a solution like this. If not, don’t be afraid to change course. It’s liberating to start from scratch.”

Podbot

Kris Lawson is our first multi-year winner of innovation funding. He won first in 2016 — for a podcast project—and another $5,000 in 2017 for a podcast recommendation bot.

Lawson spent most of the last 12 months slogging through the epic amount of hard work and experimentation that startups demand. But it’s working: his 2016 project with Andrew Moon, a podcast called Moonshot that tells the story of wildly innovative projects, recently passed 100,000 downloads.

Lawson expects his 2017 grant-winning project, Podbot, will be launched shortly. He has the bot working and it recognises podcast requests. Soon he’ll hire a developer to build out the backend, and he hopes to have his minimal viable product out in the world by the end of the year.

The City Standard

Farrin Foster and Josh Fanning also received $5,000 for their project The City Standard, a community driven publishing platform to put readers at the heart of the process from the beginning.

The team has implemented several iterations for users since launching in June this year. First they started a private Facebook group to engage and manage the active community. They’ve since transferred 130 subscribers to Trello, a project management application, to participate in the publishing process.

This week, they held their first ever “City Standard Live” event in their home city of Adelaide. At the event, Foster explained to their burgeoning community to how the pitching and commissioning process will work on Trello, as well as how several already-commissioned stories are progressing. Fanning then talked the group through the product plans for their digital platform and how pay rates and advertising will work on the site. Then Foster led a discussion about the site’s data policy.


It’s early days yet for all of the grant recipients, but we’re excited to see how all five of these exciting projects grow and evolve over the coming years.

Sign up here to receive updates about the 2018 Walkleys Media Incubator and Innovation Fund.

The 2017 Walkleys innovation winners at the Mid-Year Walkley Awards with key sponsors: Left to right: Jackson Gothe-Snape (winner), Nic Hopkins (sponsor and program mentor— Google), Sean Smith (sponsor — Isentia), Sheree Joseph (winner), Kaho Cheung (winner, isentia winner). Not pictured: Kris Lawson (winner) and Farrin Foster and Josh Fanning (winners).