As part of the three-year, $300 million Google News Initiative, Google has announced the launch of a grant program in support of local news projects in North America.
Launched in November in the Asia Pacific region, where twenty-three projects in fourteen countries were awarded funding, the GNI Innovation Challenge will be expanded to the United States and its territories as well as Canada (excluding Quebec). The first Innovation Challenge in North America will award grants of up to $300,000 — accounting for up to 70 percent of total project costs — in support of innovative projects that generate revenue and/or increase audience engagement with local journalism. Nonprofit and for-profit news outlets, startups, NGOs, and other organizations are eligible to apply for funding to help cover engineering and operational costs; the purchase or licensing of equipment, hardware, software, or other assets; and marketing expenses. Projects will be evaluated against four main criteria: impact on the local news ecosystem, innovation, feasibility, and inspiration.
The Google News Initiative is planning to open Innovation Challenges in the Middle East, Africa, and Turkey in June and in Latin America at a later date. In Europe, Google's Digital News Innovation Fund has awarded a total of more than €140 million ($155.8 million) since 2015 to six hundred and sixty-two projects in thirty countries in support of high-quality journalism.
"We heard loud and clear from journalists across the United States and Canada that there is a significant need to empower news organizations and reporters who are covering their local communities because they are under increasing financial pressure," wrote innovation challenges operations manager Ben Shaw in a blog post. "We don't have the answers, but what we do know is that innovation can come from anywhere and everywhere. We want to make sure that all news organizations, large and small, traditional publishers and new entrants, have the opportunity to share new ideas for a more sustainable industry."