During a 14-year career as a journalist, Dina Aboughazala reported on issues impacting people's lives across the Middle East. But she found that many existing news services concentrated on what was happening in big cities, while lesser-known areas were often ignored. To highlight undiscovered voices with interesting stories to tell, last year Aboughazala started the journalism platform Egab.
Egab, which connects journalists from the Middle East and Africa to international media outlets, is one of 22 successful recipients for the Google News Initiative’s second Middle East, Turkey and Africa Innovation Challenge.
It will use the funding to build a platform for contributions. “This means we can empower more local journalists across the Middle East and Africa to tell diverse stories about their communities to global audiences: stories that defy stereotypes, represent our part of the world more fairly and engage more audiences,” Aboughazala says. “We will now be able to do that at a larger scale through the online platform we will be building.”
We launched an open call for applications in February and received 329 applications from 35 countries. A rigorous review, a round of interviews and a final jury selection process followed.
Today, we’re announcing $2.1 million in funding to projects and initiatives in 14 different countries. Recipients include startups and online-only media platforms alongside some of the bigger names in news across the region, and cover topics ranging from audience development to virtual reality storytelling. We placed an emphasis on projects that reflect and demonstrate a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in the news industry.
Here are just a few of the recipients (you can find the full list on our website):
Messenger Reader Revenue: The Standard Group in Kenya is going to integrate bots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) onto a WhatsApp number so that its audience can prompt and interact with it to access news. Via a subscription, the uniquely curated content will feature categories such as farming and investigations.
Dreamcatcher: A blockchain-based micro-licensing platform for news articles comes from Aposto, a technology and new media startup in Turkey. This will mean news outlets can tap into a new market of unsubscribed users. For users, this allows them to access premium content without having to buy multiple subscriptions.
Virtual Reality (VR) tours: Frontline in Focus in Syria will bring VR Tours by local journalists for international media and NGOs to help international reporters tell stories from the conflict zone with the help of more seasoned local reporters.
Growing through innovation: An audience engagement and membership project from Raseef22 in Lebanon targets Arab youth. The team plans to enhance audience engagement with dynamic story formats, podcasts and a membership program to explore new reader revenue.
Data for Morocco: A public platform to collect economic and financial data comes from online-only publisher Société des Nouveaux Médias. This will make basic datasets accessible to all readers as well as create specific offers to subscribers and clients through personalized dashboards, real time updates and market analysis.
We’ll be following their progress alongside the previous recipients who are already impacting the news ecosystem with initiatives that increase reader engagement and make for a more sustainable future of news.