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Google News Initiative

Supporting 34 local news projects across North America

From a 148-year-old newspaper to a startup monetizing audio archives, the successful recipients of the first Google News Initiative’s North America Innovation Challenge are as varied as the communities they serve.

These selected projects are from news providers in both rural and urban communities across the region, and are all dedicated to serving a diverse range of audiences. The thing that knits them all together is their passion for local news.

The North America Innovation Challenge was launched in May of this year, and was focused specifically on local news. Within six weeks of opening up this Innovation Challenge, we received 269 applications from 44 states and provinces. After a rigorous review, a round of interviews and a final jury selection process, we selected 34 projects in 17 states and provinces to receive funding amounting to a total of $5.8 million.

GNI North America Innovation Challenge

The call for applications listed four criteria: impact, feasibility, innovation and inspiration. We were looking for applicants focused on generating revenue and/or increasing audience engagement for local news. The successful projects clearly answered this call. Here are just a few challenge winners:

  • A veteran of the digital media industry, Ken Doctor will be testing a new approach to local news discovery, engagement and membership through the Lookout Local startup in Santa Cruz, CA.

  • Graham Media Group will build a membership program to diversify broadcast revenues for local TV news stations in Detroit, Michigan.

  • Canadian start-up Earbank will be helping local news providers access and monetize audio clips (Ontario, Canada).

  • OkayPlayer in Brooklyn, New York will be creating an investigative reporting platform to further engage their African American audience.

  • The Salt Lake Tribune aims to become the first U.S. legacy newspaper to transition to a community asset and operate as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a public board.  The project will develop a playbook to help others who are looking to do the same.

  • The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism will be using text messages to take its solutions journalism to underserved audiences in some of the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee, where Wi-Fi access is low.

  • La Noticia, the main news outlet for the Latino community in Charlotte, North Carolina, will be creating an open-source platform for its audience to be able to publish their own family notices.

You can read the full list of the successful recipients on our website. A second round of the North America Innovation Challenge will open for applications next year, and you can watch out for details on our website.

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