Google announced it will launch the first Google News Initiative (GNI) Innovation Challenge in Middle East and Africa (MEA) June 2019. The aim of the challenge as described by Google is to empower news innovators by showing newer ways of thinking in online journalism through development of new tools to elevate the industry.
This initiative was announced at Google’s event for news publishers in Dubai on Tuesday, where executives from the company presented the latest products and tools for publishers and journalists across revenue generation, Google News, Google Search, YouTube and Cloud Machine Learning.
“We want a shift in mindset,” said Ludovic Blecher, Head of the Google News Initiative Innovation, while announcing the news. Accordingly, Google will be funding up to 70 per cent of any given selected project, which must be an online project. The idea must revolve around the technology of the business model rather than the content.
For Google, the aim of launching the fund within the region is to use innovation to create a knowledge sharing platform among the organizations. “To collaborate and come together,” Blecher added.
The Challenge, is looking for projects from publishers regardless of their size and associations in the MEA to submit project proposals for funding. Some project examples that were discussed are personalization, analytics, audio and voice applications, subscription, membership and loyalty programs.
During the Google News Initiative event, representatives from the company spoke to publishers explaining the latest technology of Google News App. They said that the machine learning experience added to the app will improve the experience of the users. Nonetheless, they explained that the machine learning experience overall is there to help journalists rather than take over.
Last year Google introduced “Subscribe with Google,” a process designed to help publishers as they can decide how many free articles a publisher wants to provide to potential subscribers. However, the service has not been introduced yet in the region.
For the company, technology is a platform to elevate the conversation and assist journalists in refocusing human energy on work that the machines cannot do.”Technology can do the heavy lifting,” said Blecher.
Hence, the company reiterated through out that the idea of using the latest technology will help news makers. “Freeing time for journalists to focus on their work,” added Blecher.
Speaking at the event on Tuesday, Madhav Chinnappa, Director for News Ecosystem Development, said: “ With economic models changing and new ways in which people are consuming news, innovation in the news industry has never been more important.”
Chinnappa stressed that the use of this challenge and other Google products aim to enable journalism to thrive in the digital age. During his speech, he stressed that Google is working on helping publishers to reach, connect and monetize their products, while creating the best user experience. Simultaneously maintain credibility and fight disinformation.
According to both Blecher and Chinnappa, a panel will evaluate the submissions for the fund, before a round of interviews. The submitted projects will be reviewed against several criteria, including: knowledge sharing component, the impact on the industry and how it affects the ecosystem.
Of all technology companies worldwide, Google has invested millions of dollars to fund and support journalism through globally. MEA is the latest addition to the list of regions, the company has been functioning in. The company invests and funds research projects and experimentation across different newsrooms.