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Google News Initiative

Announcing the second cohort of GNI Startups Lab and a look back at 2023

Google has always believed in the deep value of authoritative, fact-checked news. In keeping with this, over the years, we have collaborated deeply with the news industry to support them in their efforts towards digital transformation, keeping pace with changing consumer preferences and tackling the scourge of misinformation.

This means supporting existing and emerging players within the news ecosystem, which is why today, we are pleased to announce the second cohort of the GNI Startups Lab, a 12-week catalyst program in partnership with Anymind Group and T-Hub that aims to help the next generation, independent, early stage Indian news startups achieve financial and operational sustainability.

The GNI Startups Lab India supports high-quality reporting for local communities, niche audiences and/or previously underserved communities across India.

Chosen out of over 110 applicants from across India, the ten news startups cover a diverse array of categories of journalism, including investigative, political, medical, youth, climate, and local news that provides a voice to underrepresented communities. The diverse cohort features newsrooms from around the country, producing news in multiple Indian languages including English, Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada, and Telugu.

Second cohort of GNI Startups Lab

Here’s a brief look-back at the various ways we’ve partnered with the industry in 2023 and our priorities for 2024:

Commitment to growing the Indic language internet:

In May, 2023 we released a report titled Indian Languages - Understanding the digital news consumer in collaboration with Kantar. Among the many rich granular insights the report unearthed, a message that came through quite clearly was that, contrary to conventional belief, the language news consumer exhibited a strong willingness to pay for relevant, authoritative news in their primary language and a preference for varied content formats - across video, audio, image-based in addition to text-based content - findings that are pertinent to newsrooms and advertisers alike.

Based on these insights, we launched the GNI Indian languages program in partnership with Mediology in July, 2023 to help 400 language news publishers modernize their online presence and enhance user experiences across web, app and video formats so that more users can better access more content.

The program was delivered in 9 Indian languages: Hindi, English, Malayalam, Marathi, Bengali, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Gujarati and culminated at Bhashantara, an annual flagship event organized by FICCI, in partnership with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, that highlights the importance of the Indic internet and language technologies. .

The feedback for the program has been hugely encouraging with the participants already seeing significant increase in digital ad revenue, deeper engagement with audience via GA4 implementation, experimenting new content formats and diverse distribution channel facilitated via native apps.

North East Now Android & iOS app developed and launched during phase 2 of the program has been a game-changer for our audience engagement. Mahesh Deka
Editor, North East Now

Supporting publishers in developing viable subscriptions revenue streams:

Having concluded the second cohort of Subscriptions Academy in partnership with FT Strategies, we have engaged deeply with 13 publishers across traditional, language and digital, to develop subscriptions as a viable revenue stream in India.

The objective of the Academy was to define an ambitious vision for publishers’ digital subscription business and build the organizational skills and structures to achieve their goal.

Subscription Academy
It's been great. Especially for people in the team who have been exposed to the core nuances for the subscription play for the first time. It helped bridge the information and thought gap between early starters and late joiners Sanjay Sindhwani
CEO, Indian Express Digital

Countering misinformation:

Continuing our firm commitment to support the news industry in tackling the scourge of misinformation, we partnered with subject matter experts to empower journalists and newsrooms with digital tools and skills needed to find, verify, and tell engaging stories while tackling the ever-evolving risk of misinformation.

Through 2023, via efforts like the GNI India Training Network and Data Dialogue, we supported the training of 15,000+ journalists and journalism students in 15+ languages, impacting 240+ newsrooms and media colleges.

Listing below, some key training programs concluded in 2023:

  • PollCheck Election Academy: PollCheck 2023 was the 4th edition of our annual training series that equips journalists covering elections in India with digital tools and skills they need for news gathering, reporting and verification. Over 1000 journalists participated in the effort that included 5 full-day PollCheck Election days in poll-bound states of Telangana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram, and two in-person PollCheck Accelerator workshops in Delhi.
  • Data Journalism Accelerator: As part of our commitment to help journalists in India strengthen their data journalism skills and tackle data-related misinformation in a key election year, the Google News Initiative, in partnership with How India Lives, launched Data Journalism Accelerator - a 6-month training and fellowship program that provided in-depth training and weekly mentoring support to a select cohort of 20 newsrooms/fellows to help them do more data-driven stories. Participating newsrooms included the Hindustan Times, the Times of India, The News Minute, News Laundry, Indian Express, Mooknayak among others.
  • Countering gender misinformation with ‘InQlusive newsrooms’: Earlier in 2023, we supported The News Minute to launch ‘InQlusive Newsrooms’ - a project that aims to strengthen and promote best practices of covering LGBTQIA+ issues. With GNI’s support, the team is building a 20-chapter media reference guide in English and 5 Indian languages that is being distributed to newsrooms, colleges, journalists and associations to help them learn why and how to report better on LGBTQIA+ community.

This effort is also supporting 6 regional workshops for editors, reporters and journalists in 3 languages, and an InQlusive Newsrooms media fellowship that will onboard 12 journalists as fellows and mentor them to do stories of their choice.

Additionally, Google also invested in ecosystem enablement through product interventions like the launch of new features in Fact Check Explorer and support of organisations leading the charter to curb misinformation via the Global Fact Check Fund, a $13M grant to the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) to support fact-checkers around the world with an aim to strengthen and develop the operational, production and engagement capacities of local and regional media organizations to increase the quality, volume, frequency, scale and impact of fact checking abilities and activities.

We also supported media literacy efforts like FactShala and Sach Ke Saathi that are helping vulnerable communities learn the critical thinking skills required to sift facts from fake, and are experimenting with new ways to fight misinformation.

The last few years have cast in sharp relief, the crucial role that reliable information plays in all our lives. The news industry, with their investments in news gathering and strong foundational commitment to news integrity are more important than ever. Google remains committed to supporting this mission not only through our existing products and Google News Initiative programs, but also through our partnerships with the industry to unlock greater possibilities in the future.