GNI North America Innovation Challenge Q&A Townhall

morning, everybody. Hello from San Francisco. My name is Simon Rogers. I am the data editor
at the Google News Lab. And I’m also part of the North
America Innovation Challenge team within Google,
which is going to be awarding the mighty
sum of $300,000 per project for amazing innovative
projects, hopefully happening across the states. I’m joined by another
former Guardian alum as well, Sarah Hartley. Hi Sarah. SARAH HARTLEY: Hi. [INTERPOSING VOICES] SIMON ROGERS: –a bit
about what you do. SARAH HARTLEY: Yes. So I’m with the GNI
Innovation Challenges Team. And my role really is to help
anybody who’s looking to apply and also once they’ve been
successful with their projects, to help them through the
processes that we have here. So, great to see you. SIMON ROGERS: Well, thanks. Thanks for joining. And what we’re
going to do is I’m going to talk a little bit about
the [INAUDIBLE] with Sarah. And then we are going
to open up to questions. The idea is for us to
be able to give you guys tips and tricks
and things that we’re looking for around the entries. You may have questions
about how to enter. That’s what we
want to help with. So in true Google
style, anybody who works with anybody
at Google knows that there’s always a deck. I am just going to
share my screen. Second– and, hopefully,
everybody can see that. If not, it’s too late. So my name is Simon Rogers. I’m working in
the News Lab which is part of the Google
News Initiative, which is Google’s body that works
very closely with the news industry across
Google, across the news industry around the world. So news is a big
deal for Google. It matters very much
to us as a company. It’s part of our
original mission is to make the
world’s information accessible and useful. And it’s the heart
of our mission. And it’s also the mission of
publishers and journalists. So the two things
coincide really well here. And that is really what the
Google News Initiative is about, it’s really about helping
news organizations evolve their business models,
helping to elevate and promote good quality
journalism, and also– and crucially here– to
help empower newsrooms with technology, technology
being the starting case here for what Google does. So there’s a lot of stuff
happening around the Google News Initiative. There’s $120 million
into initiatives, already 350 organizations plus in over
70 countries around the world. And we are following
on hard on the heels from the Asia
Innovation Challenge, which just happened last year. Had 215 applicants. We selected 23 for grants. And you can see the real
selection of countries there. SARAH HARTLEY: Hey, Simon. SIMON ROGERS: Yeah? SARAH HARTLEY: Can
I just interrupt? I’m getting a message that
the presentation is not actually showing out. SIMON ROGERS: Oh. Weird. OK. All right. I’m going to– it says I’m
presenting to everybody. So I’m just going to– SARAH HARTLEY: Sorry
to interrupt there. SIMON ROGERS: Right. Let me try again. OK. So it says I’m
presenting to everyone. I’m going to– SARAH HARTLEY: It does. SIMON ROGERS: It does. I’m going to see that
the people can see it. I’m going to trust the
technology which could be a terrible, terrible mistake. But we’ll see. So just talking about the
Asia Innovation Challenge, which has just happened. We had 215 applicants. 23 was selected from
countries all over the region. And you can see some of them
here from Japan, Nepal, New Zealand, India, and so on,
which is an amazing thing. And we are proud
to announce today that with the launch of the
North America Innovation Challenge, which is our effort
to give everyone an opportunity to inject new ideas and
innovation into the news ecosystem. And this is really
about us helping to encourage great new
ideas to come to the fore. Those technological ideas
which people have had, they thought, well,
we don’t really have the resources to
develop this right now. We don’t know how
to begin with it. We’re here to support that
and help make that happen. So Sarah, I’m going
to hand over to you. And please, talk through
talk through the challenge and the program itself. SARAH HARTLEY: Yeah. I’m going to– I’m concerned that the
technical problem– I’m just going to try and
share my screen as well. And let’s see if that gets
us anywhere further maybe. What do you think? SIMON ROGERS: OK. It’s good to go. SARAH HARTLEY: You think that? So, OK. OK. Let me just do that then. And maybe– while
I’m doing that, I think we have some help
on its way in the shape of the people on the hangout. So maybe we can see whether
they can see it too. Let’s have a look. So– I see my screen. Are you seeing my screen, Simon? SIMON ROGERS: Yep. It’s there. SARAH HARTLEY: Yep. OK. SIMON ROGERS: OK. Apparently, you’re much
more successful than I am. So if you go to a
full screen now, people should be able to see it. SARAH HARTLEY: I’m not
going to get any better than that, I’m afraid. SIMON ROGERS: OK. SARAH HARTLEY: Are
you able to see it? SIMON ROGERS: Yeah. We can see it. It’s not [INAUDIBLE],, but
I don’t think it matters. So let’s go for it. SARAH HARTLEY: OK. I don’t want to hold
everybody up any further. So thank you very much, anyway,
for inviting me along here. And it’s great and
a real privilege to be able to introduce the
very first GNI Innovation Challenge for North America. I should start, really, by
talking about the eligibility of this program. This isn’t going to work. Sorry, Simon. SIMON ROGERS: Don’t worry. Let’s just talk
through the content. It’s almost more
important than the images. Let’s quit out the deck
and then go back to view. And then just chat through it. SARAH HARTLEY: Yeah, I think so. So you’ll have to put
up with seeing me. Sorry about that. Can you see me? SIMON ROGERS:
Yeah, all but good. SARAH HARTLEY: It’s
a good start, right? OK, let’s start with that. So I’ll go through the
points of the presentation. We can always share it in some
other format later, perhaps. But really, the important
thing is, as you say, the content of what
we’re trying to do here. So first of all, on
eligibility, it’s actually really
broad, really open. The challenge is
open to organizations of every size, even
freelancers, sole proprietors, whatever the size of
your news operation. Providing that you’re looking
to produce innovative, original journalism, we’d like
to hear from you, basically. So that could be
established publishers. It could be online-only players. It could be new startups,
publisher consortia, local industry associations. All of those are
eligible to apply. The one thing they
must be though is incorporated in one of the
eligible countries or states. That’s essentially the
US, most of Canada, and the US overseas territories. If it’s an unincorporated
organization, then it should be registered
in one of those places. So I have their principle
place of business there. The challenge itself,
the theme of it really answers the
local needs of the area. And so it’s going to focus
on creative projects that demonstrate opportunities
to generate revenue and/or increase audience
engagement for local news. So let’s take those
three things at a time– the generating revenue,
the audience engagement, and the local news, and
just have a quick talk about each of those. So what do we mean by “revenue”
and “audience engagement?” Really, these are
looking at new ways to find revenue
outside of advertising. Everybody’s looking at
this as a challenge now. And we know that you have
a lot of interest in this. So we’re looking–
we allow for people being very creative and
very broad with this themes. So when it comes to revenues,
we’re talking about– there things like
direct payments, things like micropayments,
things like memberships or digital currencies. Then there’s obviously
more indirect payments– things like relationship with
new subscribers or utilities or bundling of services in
order to charge for them. There’s all sorts of new
digital products and services that people might offer
the kind of diversification of the revenue. And then, obviously,
there’s ways to look at that
audience engagement. Obviously, the more engaged your
audience is– you know this– the more likely they
are to be loyal to you. And we’re looking
at different ways of increasing the time
they spend with you and the pages they visit
and the loyalty that you receive from that. What do we mean by “local news?” Obviously, it’s all
about local news. Again, we aim to be
kind of broad in that. And we have a
definition which can fit many, many organizations. So it needs to be an existing
journalistic organization whose primary focus is on a
specific geographical target group. That’s it. That’s the way we’ve
defined local news. So existing journalistic
organization and a primary focus on
a specific geographical target group. How does the funding
work when you apply? Well, Google will fund up
to– as Simon said earlier– up to $300,000 for
selected projects. And of that, they’ll fund up
to 70% of the overall costs. So the total project cost– 100% cost– is obviously going
to be more than the $300,000. But the $300,000 is the
maximum to be applied for. The eligible expenses
on these projects are things like personnel,
engineering, equipment, marketing, but importantly,
not the editorial cost. So Google’s 70% of
the overall costs is not eligible to be
spent on editorial cost. I’m sure we’ll have some
questions about that in a minute. If you’re looking to
apply to us, then really we want one application
from each applicant. But in the case
of a large group, then they can put in a
maximum of three projects for a group, one for each
brand, up to a maximum of three. And just a quick note
that applications have to be submitted
to us in English. All the correspondence
is in English too. What are we looking
for applications on? Well, we’re looking for specific
projects around online news. And “specific” is an important
word in this sentence because we’re not looking at
a general digital roadmap, a general evolution
for the company. We’re looking for something
very timeframed and specific and take the
opportunity, really, to do something you might
not have done before, or you might not have
done at this size, or you might not have
done at this speed. This is the type of project
we’re looking for, really, something very
new and innovative for your organization. We always say that the
main component is digital, but that doesn’t
preclude other formats. Quite often, some format could
be some element of parental, something to do with broadcast. But the primary element
should be for digital. And a final point on this
area is that we really like to see collaborations. This is a real opportunity
for you to work with others. They could be others
in the news industry. They could be tech
companies, could be academic partners, whatever it is. Collaboration really kind
of makes the world go round, in this respect, and also
helps our overall mission in really stimulating what’s
happening in the news ecosystem more widely. I should give you
a quick heads-up on things that aren’t eligible. And things that aren’t eligible
include projects that are limited to content creation–
so just about content creation– upgrades to legacy
publishing systems; and training education
programs are not covered by this particular
funding challenge. Same goes really
for pure research. So a little bit on the
selection criteria. We’re looking for
things that have impact on the news ecosystem. Really, should be
able to demonstrate how you’ll have a positive
impact on the reader engagement, on the revenue
streams and the way people really consume digital news. Obviously, we’re
looking for innovation. The title of this challenge
is an Innovation Challenge. But we’re really
looking to you to define what innovation means to you. It’ll be different
for each of you. It depends on your journey,
where you start from. So we ask you to
really tell us what’s innovative about your idea. Also, obviously, we’re looking
for the feasibility of it. Is it an idea that can be done? And are you the best
people to do it? Do you have a good plan for it? Do you have key performance
indicators and metrics identified? How will you actually do that? And the fourth thing we
look for is the inspiration that your project
will put forward. So how will you be
able to inspire others to be innovative in this space? How willing are you to
share the knowledge? How will you do that? There’s all sorts
of ways that people can share their knowledge. They can do this in
an open-source way or by open-sourcing the code. That’s a very clear way. But there’s other ways as well. And perhaps, they’d
be able to speak at a conference about
the inspirational idea that they had. Or perhaps, they’d be able to
produce a document or a video or some other way of
sharing that knowledge. Just a little bit
about governance before we move to the Q&A. All
the applications are assessed. Every single one that
comes in is seen. And that’s done by a project
team here, myself and Simon amongst those people. There’s a team of
Google staff who really have knowledge
of journalism or digital publishing. They look at all
the applications, and then interview
some of the applicants. And then, finally,
the selection is put– a shortlisted
selection is put to what we call a jury, which
is made up of some senior Google executives. And they make the
final decision and vote on the projects that
will receive funding. All of this will
happen, obviously, over the next few months. We close this call for
projects in July the 15th, so coming up very fast. And then after that, we
move on to those other the processes I’ve
just described, so the selection, the interviews,
and then the jury selection. So that’s a brief overview. Obviously, we can dig into
more detail during the question and answer. But that’s probably a good
place to leave it just for now. What I would say
before I go though is that our top tip, if you
like to get us kicked off for the questions, is to when
you have a look at the website, you will see on there
there’s the ability to download the whole
application form. I really, strongly
suggests to do that. It’s a straightforward
application form. There’s no tricks in there. But it is easier to do
offline and then completely online one afterwards. And obviously, there’s a certain
amount of detail required. So I definitely suggests
that as the first tip before we go into the
question and answer. SIMON ROGERS: Cool. Sarah, thank you so much. I’ll just say that we will
be posting all these links on the chart below this
Hangout [INAUDIBLE]—- SARAH HARTLEY: Oh, great. SIMON ROGERS: –website link
is just going there now. And we’ve got a
couple of questions. One of which I thought might be
worth talking a little bit more about the journalism
requirement because we’ve had a lot of discussions about
this even within our team. And it might be a little
bit confusing to people. So could you talk through a
little bit about how that works and what we– SARAH HARTLEY: About
the funding part? SIMON ROGERS: On the– exactly. SARAH HARTLEY: Yeah. OK. So because Google will fund up
to 70% maximum of a project. So the applicant will be
expected to put in 30%. That 30% doesn’t
have to be, like, cash in the bank it can be
resource and time and expertise that they can value
to that amount. So in that 30%,
the editorial cost could be included in there. But it can’t be included in the
70% that the Google funding is. And this is– SIMON ROGERS: I find that to be
like salaries for journalists? SARAH HARTLEY: Yeah. SIMON ROGERS:
Because, obviously, the challenge is how we want
to encourage this stuff that is going to help journalism. SARAH HARTLEY: Yep. SIMON ROGERS: So we
don’t want people to get hung up on us, do we? SARAH HARTLEY: No. Not at all. I mean, obviously, the challenge
is for the innovation part. The organizations
that are applying will already have editorial
facility if you like. And we don’t cover a
kind of general overhead. But there’s obviously going
to be some editorial costs. But it should be in
that sort of 30% fit. SIMON ROGERS: Great. Brilliant. So another couple
of questions, so one of the questions we’ve had
is, does a project need new technology to be accepted? So, yeah, could you talk
through that a little bit? SARAH HARTLEY: Yeah. No. It doesn’t need to have a new
technology to be accepted. Perhaps you could be using
an existing technology in a new and different way. So I’m not expecting everybody
to come up with a new software or something like that. What the project
should do is sort of demonstrate innovation
and new thinking and a new way of doing things. But if that’s using some
existing technology to do that, then that’s perfectly fine. SIMON ROGERS: Yeah, and
cover a bit on that. I mean, so talk a little
bit about the monetization requirements which comes
in there, which is I guess is where we want
projects that show us how it’s going to benefit
the organization [INAUDIBLE].. SARAH HARTLEY: Absolutely. And so when applying
for this, you’ve really got to think about
the monetization aspect and demonstrate that there is
a plan towards monetization. Now that doesn’t
mean that it’s got to be a plan that says there’s
a direct monetary gain, if you like. I mean, some applicants
could be thinking from sort of an NGO or
nonprofit organization. And they obviously don’t
produce revenue in the way that a commercial
organization might. So in that case, their
kind of monetization would be more about
have they come up with a product or a service or a
new way of doing something that means that they’d get
more donor funding or get more subscribers? Or they’ve monetized it in
a slightly different way. So it’s a case of the
applicant really thinking through what does monetization
mean for their organization and being able to
explain it to us. SIMON ROGERS: Cool. Thank you. So we have a few
questions which ave come in at the bottom of
the video, which is great. And please keep them coming. We have a couple
here, which I would describe as almost like
procedural questions around applying. So let’s look at
these ones first. So one of these is is there
some way to save progress with your online application? Do you have to do it in one go? Or can you complete it
gradually over time? And then the other
question, which is similar, about entering, which is
on the application, what are the numbers next to
the asterisk on the form? Are they word or
character counts? SARAH HARTLEY: They’re
character counts. That’s an easy one
to get through first. But yeah, I mean, you can save. I really would suggest download
the application offline and complete it. And then copy and
paste it in basically. There is quite a
lot of detail there. It’s going to take a bit of
brainstorming with your teams, a bit of working through
some of the financial parts. It’s not something that you
could sit and do straight off. Really, download it and
work on it and some time with your team. SIMON ROGERS: So
it’s not something that people can edit
once they’ve applied. SARAH HARTLEY: No. It’s not. It’s like a form. Once you press Submit, it
comes to the project team. And you won’t be able
to go and amend it. SIMON ROGERS: OK. And we know how
journalists always like to do everything
at the last minute. SARAH HARTLEY: Yeah, yeah. SIMON ROGERS: It
might be one where you take a little bit more time. One question we’ve had about
timing from Jacob [INAUDIBLE].. The website states
that projects must be executed within one year,
assuming that clock begins once the winners are announced. So basically, when
does the clock start– SARAH HARTLEY: The clock starts
ticking when you’re contracted. So actually, it’ll
be a little bit after the winners have been
announced because, obviously, the announcement. Then we’ve got to talk
to the applicants, get everything in
place, contract them, pay some money because all the
payments are made in advance. And then the clock
ticks from the time of the contract starting. SIMON ROGERS: Cool. That’s great. Great. So we also have a couple
more questions, one of which is about nonprofit. So say you’re a nonprofit. As we know, there are
loads of amazing nonprofits who are doing great
work at the moment. So how would that work? How does that work
with the whole, kind of, like the for-profit? SARAH HARTLEY: The application
process is exactly the same. Just one of the
early questions is to ask you whether
you’re a nonprofit or what your company
sort of status is. And it works in
just the same way. The money that’s made
available is just the same, 70% of the total cost. And so with the nonprofit–
as for the for-profit, in fact, the sorts
of what we call your own contribution, the
project’s own contribution, will be the staff time
usually is a huge part of it. It could be some special sort of
equipment or other arrangements they’ve got. But it is just the
same as the for-profit. As I say, the monetization
will be slightly different. The way you approach
monetization will be slightly different. And obviously, we’d expect that. SIMON ROGERS: Cool. OK. We’ve got another
couple of questions here too, one of which is
about audience engagement. So we talk about
audience engagement. Great. First, talk a little bit
about what that might mean. So I think that there’s
for me, personally, when we think about
audience engagement, we know that the
more engaged, more loyal when the users become
subscribers at a higher rate. It brings value to
an organization. But let’s talk a
little bit about that and how we’ll be
looking at that where we start to judge entries. SARAH HARTLEY: Yeah. I mean, we’re looking
for ideas that are going to really value that. So it could be
new ways to engage in subscriptions
or membership, how to keep people with you longer. That’s the crux of what
we’re hoping to see. So how are you going to do that? But also how are you
going to measure that? What sort of approach
are you going to take to audience
engagement yourself? How do you value it? What do you measure
as successful in that? And that’s what we’re
kind of looking for there, some new ideas and
some real new thinking that others could learn
from and be inspired by. SIMON ROGERS: Great. Thank you. So we have another question
in from the audience, Shouvik Banerjee, who’s looks
like a journalism startup. They’ve got two journalists. But they’ve not recruited
a local publisher yet. Is it required to
have a publisher on the team for people to apply? SARAH HARTLEY: No. Not at all. I’ll say, given the great
collaborations that you could look for, it would
be a great thing to do if you’ve got a
local publisher to work in conjunction with because
your project is likely to be amplified and have more reach. But it’s not a requirement. You can apply as a startup
on your own if you wish. SIMON ROGERS: Great. Thank you, Sarah. So we are near the
end of our time today. Just to retrace some of
the answers to questions we asked a few times
about whether people can edit an application
once they submit it. And the answer,
unfortunately, is no. So– SARAH HARTLEY: Once
it’s received by– once it’s received, no. SIMON ROGERS: Yeah. Once it’s received,
once you submitted it, then it’s in there. Can people edit it
before it’s submitted? So can you start it and
save progress for later? SARAH HARTLEY: Yes, you can. But obviously, I
would really advise doing it offline so
that there’s no hiccups and you know where
you’re going with it. Try and finalize it before
you start submitting it. SIMON ROGERS: Great. Looks like you can edit
it before you submit it. Once it’s submitted though,
that time has passed. So we’re going to post more
links in the chat here. We’re going to post links
to the application process. And hopefully, most of
you have found it already. Plus, if you want
to get ahold of us, you can always ask
more questions. We are open and
available and really keen to help people get the
most out of the application. SARAH HARTLEY: Absolutely. And we can have one-to-one chats
with people for that purpose as well. SIMON ROGERS: Absolutely. So we’ll posting
an email address. We’ve got one more
question that I’m going to just tap into right
at the end from Matt Davison. So you’re just over
the line there, Matt, which is can we tap
into some Google resources to help power our
innovations, for example, use Google’s maps premium
for circulation project? SARAH HARTLEY: OK. So there is no requirement to
use any Google products to have a successful project. It’s a completely
branded, gnostic thing. So you haven’t got to do that. Should you want
to, that’s lovely. But actually, we
operate in a kind of interesting
ring-fenced way in order to protect the applicant’s IP. So while we think
it’s great if you want to use some Google products. But we’re not kind of going
to push you at Google teams to go and work with them. As I say, it is for their
protection, the applicant’s IP, that make sure that we
keep that safe for them. SIMON ROGERS: Great. Thanks, Sarah. So no [INAUDIBLE] Google staff. But there’s no objection too. Oh one, more question
as well, which is, if we make it
to the interview, will it be in person. SARAH HARTLEY: No. Probably not. It’ll be like this. It’ll be a video call. SIMON ROGERS: Google operates
almost always entirely on Hangouts. Guys, I’m sorry about that. So we will be posting a link. There is an email address. You can get ahold of us. It’s I’ll tell you it now. It’s [email protected] It’s a bit of a mouthful. So it’ll be in the
chat below here. Please, no question
is too dumb here. No question is too obvious. We want to know what
you’re struggling with and also want to
know what works well and what you finding is
simple about this process too. SARAH HARTLEY: I’ll just
give you a little head’s up too as well to– perhaps we can put a
link to that, Simon, as well is the Medium
channel for News labs where I’ve done
some sort of tips for filling in the
application form just to help people through
it a little bit more. SIMON ROGERS: Yeah. Absolutely. Thanks, everybody. And we’re looking really,
really looking forward to seeing what you
have to apply with and the next stage in
the future of journalism. SARAH HARTLEY: Yep. Don’t forget this
closing date, the 15th. SIMON ROGERS: Yeah,
very important. Thanks, guys. SARAH HARTLEY: Bye now.