Category Archives: Google News Blog

The official blog from the team at Google News

How publishers can take advantage of machine learning

As the publishing world continues to face new challenges amidst the shift to digital, news media and publishers are tasked with unlocking new opportunities. With online news consumption continuing to grow, it’s crucial that publishers take advantage of new technologies to sustain and grow their business. Machine learning yields tremendous value for media and can help them tackle the hardest problems: engaging readers, increasing profits, and making newsrooms more efficient. Google has a suite of machine learning tools and services that are easy to use—here are a few ways they can help newsrooms and reporters do their jobs

1. Improve your newsroom's efficiency 

Editors want to make their stories appealing and to stand out so that people will read them. So finding just the right photograph or video can be key in bringing a story to life. But with ever-pressing deadlines, there’s often not enough time to find that perfect image. This is where Google Cloud Vision and Video Intelligence can simplify the process by tagging images and videos based on the content inside the actual image. This metadata can then be used to make it easier and quicker to find the right visual.

2.  Better understand your audience

News publishers use analytics tools to grow their audiences, and understand what that audience is reading and how they’re discovering content. Google Cloud Natural Language uses machine learning to understand what your content is about, independent of a website’s section and subsection structure (i.e. Sports, Local, etc.) Today, Cloud Natural Language announced a new content classifier and entity sentiment that digs into the detail of what a story is actually about. For example, an article about a high-tech stadium for the Golden State Warriors may be classified under the “technology” section of a paper, when its content should fall under “technology” and “sports.” This section-independent tagging can increase readership by driving smarter article recommendations and provides better data around trending topics. Naveed Ahmad, Senior Director of Data at Hearst has emphasized that precision and speed are critical to engaging readers: “Google Cloud Natural Language is unmatched in its accuracy for content classification. At Hearst, we publish several thousand articles a day across 30+ properties and, with natural language processing, we're able to quickly gain insight into what content is being published and how it resonates with our audiences."

3. Engage with new audiences

As publications expand their reach into more countries, they have to write for multiple audiences in different languages and many cannot afford multi-language desks. Google Cloud Translation makes translating for different audiences easier by providing a simple interface to translate content into more than 100 languages. Vice launched GoogleFish earlier this year to help editors quickly translate existing Vice articles into the language of their market. Once text was auto-translated, an editor could then push the translation to a local editor to ensure tone and local slang were accurate. Early translation results are very positive and Vice is also uncovering new insights around global content sharing they could not previously identify.

DB Corp, India’s largest newspaper group, publishes 62 editions in four languages and sells about 6 million newspaper copies per day. To address its growing customers and its diverse readership, reporters use Google Cloud Translation to capture and document interviews and source material for articles, with accuracy rates of 95 percent for Hindi alone.

4. Monetize your audience

So far we’ve primarily outlined ways to improve content creation and engagement with readers, however monetization is a critical piece for all publishers. Using Cloud Datalab, publishers can identify new subscription opportunities and offerings. The metadata collected from image, video, and content tagging creates an invaluable dataset to advertisers, such as audiences interested in local events or personal finance, or those who watch videos about cars or travel. The Washington Post has seen success with their in-house solution through the ability to target native ads to likely interested readers. Lastly, improved content recommendation drives consumption, ultimately improving the bottom line.

5. Experiment with new formats

The ability to share news quickly and efficiently is a major concern for newsrooms across the world. However today more than ever, readers are reading the news in different ways across different platforms and the “one format fits all” method is not always best. TensorFlow’s “summary.text” feature can help publishers quickly experiment with creating short form content from longer stories. This helps them quickly test the best way to share their content across different platforms. Reddit recently launched a similar “tl;dr bot” that summarizes long posts into digestible snippets.

6. Keep your content safe for everyone

The comments section can be a place of both fruitful discussion as well as toxicity. Users who comment are frequently the most highly engaged on the site overall, and while publishers want to keep sharing open, it can frequently spiral out of control into offensive speech and bad language. Jigsaw’s Perspective is an API that uses machine learning to spot harmful comments which can be flagged for moderators. Publishers like the New York Times have leveraged Perspective's technology to improve the way all readers engage with comments. By making the task of moderating conversations at scale easier, this frees up valuable time for editors and improves online discussion.

8
Example of New York Time’s moderator dashboard. Each dot represents a negative comment

From the printing press to machine learning, technology continues to spur new opportunities for publishers to reach more people, create engaging content and operate efficiently. We're only beginning to scratch the surface of what machine learning can do for publishers. Keep tabs on The Keyword for the latest developments.

Supporting local journalism with Report for America

I cut my teeth in journalism as a local reporter for my hometown paper, the Northfield News, and saw firsthand how local journalism impacts a community. Local reporters go to city council meetings to hold city governments accountable. They’re the first to show up when disaster strikes, getting critical information to their readers. And they provide the first draft of history for cities and towns, providing reporting that keeps their communities safe, informed and connected.


But not all communities in the U.S. are fortunate enough to have a strong local media presence—declining sales and revenues have led to local papers closing and local newsrooms shrinking. Despite this gloomy picture, there are lots of ideas about how to strengthen the local news ecosystem, and today we’re announcing our support of one new approach: Report for America.


An initiative of The GroundTruth Project, Report for America is taking its inspiration from Teach for America and applying it to local journalism. Its goal is to attract service-minded candidates and place them in local newsrooms for a year as reporters.


The first pilot, which will start early next year, aims to fill 12 reporting positions in newsrooms across the country, in areas underserved by local media. There will also be a community element to the work—a reporter might also help a local high school start or improve their student-run news site or newspaper.


As a founding member of this exciting initiative, the Google News Lab will provide in-depth training to the Report for America Corps members focusing on digital and data journalism, and equip them with the proper technology—Chromebooks, 360-degree cameras, and mobile phones.


Joining us in supporting Report for America are the Knight Foundation, The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, Galloway Family Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network and the Center for Investigative Reporting.


Report for America is just one part of our efforts to strengthen local news here at Google. Here are a few others:

  • To provide the proper exposure for local news outlets covering national stories, Google News labels those stories so readers can easily find on-the-ground reporting. Additionally we’ve made it easier for people to follow local news sources with a dedicated local tab on the Google News home page. And just last week, in the U.S., Google News went hyperlocal by adding clearly labeled Community Updates that provide information about news and events happening in your area so you’ll always know what’s going on.
  • We want to help publishers succeed financially by monetizing their content online. We have a key partnership with the Local Media Consortium—which represents more than 1,600 local media outlets—to tap into the power of our ad technology to fund and support local journalism. At their annual summit the LMC announced combined savings and revenue of more than $110 million for partners, based on that collaboration with Google.
  • At the Google News Lab, journalism training is an important component of the work we do to help journalists and newsrooms develop new skills and access the latest digital tools. Through  a partnership with the Society for Professional Journalists we’ve trained more than 9,500 local reporters across America in the last year alone. And a collaboration with the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal Labs has helped build the capacity of investigative teams in Mississippi and New Jersey, a model we’re looking to scale in 2018.

We hope Report for America will bring fresh thinking and a new approach to strengthening local news.

The state of data journalism in 2017

Data journalism has been a big focus for us at the Google News Lab over the past three years—in building tools, creating content and sharing data with the data journalism community. We wanted to see if we’re taking the right approach: how big is data journalism, what challenges do data journalists face and how is it going to change?

Up until today, we really haven’t had clear answers to those questions. So, in collaboration with PolicyViz, we conducted a series of in-depth qualitative interviews and an online survey to better understand how journalists use data to tell stories. We conducted 56 detailed in-person interviews with journalists in the U.S., UK, Germany and France and an online survey of more than 900 journalists. Our analysis offers a glimpse into the state of data journalism in 2017 and highlights key challenges for the field moving forward. 

The result is one of the first comprehensive studies of the field and its activity. A decade ago, data journalists there was only handful of data journalists. 

Today, this research shows that:

  • 42% of reporters use data to tell stories regularly (twice or more per week).
  • 51% of all news organizations in the U.S. and Europe now have a dedicated data journalist—and this rises to 60% for digital-only platforms.
  • 33% of journalists use data for political stories, followed by 28% for finance and 25% for investigative stories.

There is a big international variation, even within our study. In France, 56% of newsrooms have  a data journalist, followed by Germany with 52%, the UK with 52%, and the U.S. with 46%. Despite its huge growth, data journalism still faces challenges as we head towards 2018.

  • 53% of the sample saw data journalism as a speciality skill that requires extensive training, and is not easy to pick up.

  • Survey respondents also discussed the time pressures they face and the limited bandwidth from dedicated data journalists who can clean, process, and analyze data. We found that 49% of data stories are created in a day or less.

  • Our research also found that data visualization tools are not keeping up with the pace of innovation. As a result, reporters are building their own solutions: a fifth of data journalists use in-house tools and software, whether it’s data visualization tools or even data cleaning solutions.

9

More than half of respondents want their organizations to use more data to tell stories. But, some felt the return on investment was unclear as the production of data journalism can take significant time and resources.


The future of data journalism, though, has never been as important as it is today, nor as much a part of the way journalists work every day, as this study shows. As one of our interviewees put it:


We heard from one data journalist in the U.S. that “data is a good way of getting to the truth of things ... in this post-truth era, this work is increasingly important. We are all desperately searching for facts.”

Ending FOMO with Community Updates

FOMO: that feeling you get when you fear you're missing out on something super awesome, interesting or important to you: like a fun gig in the local park, an important school board meeting, or a community clean up down the road from your house.

Well, Community Updates could be your solution. It will bring you information about news and events happening right in your own backyard so you’ll always know what’s going on.

Even though Google News helps you understand what’s happening around the world, we realized that it wasn’t easy for people to get information about their own communities.

So we used machine learning techniques to find additional sources publishing local content— like hyperlocal bloggers and high school newspapers—and we realized these and other local sources deserved their own unique space. The redesign of the Google News earlier this year provided a place for this type of news to live—a tab at the top of the page called Local. That means everything from this outdoor donut and craft beer pairing event in Rochester, or students organizing a hackathon next door to the Googleplex at Mountain View High School, to this list of open restaurants and grocery stores in Houston during Hurricane Harvey will be easier than ever to find and keep tabs on.

1
Community Updates are found under the "Local" tab on Google News.

Community Updates builds on the work we’ve been doing for the last decade in highlighting local information and publications (we first launched local sections in 2008). Last year we expanded to all 81 Google News editions and put a spotlight on local sources of national news.

We hope Community Updates will make Google News even more useful, so that you’re not worried about missing out on cool events and opportunities around you. At the moment this feature is only available in the U.S. in English on news.google.com and will be available in the Google News & Weather App later this fall. More information on Community Updates is available here. See our Publisher Center for more on Getting Into Google News.

Facts, trends and unheard voices: empowering journalists during the upcoming German election

For the News Lab, elections are opportunities to empower journalists with the technology and data they need to keep their readers informed. For the German election on September 24th, our efforts are formed around three key themes: promoting accurate content, offering data that provides helpful context, and surfacing unheard voices.

Guiding all of these efforts is a spirit of experimentation and collaboration with news partners to address the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities digital reporting presents.

Promoting accurate content

On September 4th, alongside Facebook, we began helping two organizations—First Draft and Correctiv—monitor misleading information during the German election. First Draft is a coalition of organizations dedicated to improving skills and standards in the reporting and sharing of information that emerges online. Correctiv is the first nonprofit investigative newsroom in the German-speaking world. Its fact-checking team started a few months ago and is a member of the International Fact Checking Network.

As a part of our partnership with Corrective, we funded and supported a team of journalists from across Germany called WahlCheck17 (Election Check 17). The team will work in a pop-up newsroom opened at the Corrective office to verify and fact-check online news stories and conversations in real-time during the final few weeks before the election. The team includes fact-checking experts from First Draft and Corrective, experienced students and graduates from the Hamburg Media School, and freelance journalists.

In the same vein as First Draft’s work on CrossCheck in France and our partnership with Full Fact during the UK general election in May, the WahlCheck17 team will alert German newsrooms by publishing a daily newsletter that lists the most popular rumors, manipulated photos and videos, and misleading articles and data visualizations circulating online, and offers additional context on the sources.

Using Trends to offer additional context

Google Trends offers insight into the candidates, parties, and moments that dominate the election campaign. Our new Google Trends election hub highlights search interest in top political issues and parties, with embeddable graphics that show what people across Germany have been most interested in throughout the election campaign.

7

2Q17, a unique data visualization created by the renowned data designer Moritz Stefaner, depicts queries that Germans are searching for in relation to the top candidates. This project is part of Google News Lab’s series of visual experiments to develop innovative and interactive storytelling formats to cover important news moments.

8

Surfacing unheard voices

During the French presidential election, the News Lab partnered with a publisher to surface the views of voters across France in 360. Now we’re working with Euronews on a similar project to surface unheard voices in Germany. In partnership with German regional media outlets, who will provide context on the socioeconomic conditions of their respective regions, this project will provide an immersive journey through Germany in the weeks leading up to the election. Watch the first episode starring Masih Rahimi, an Afghan migrant and IT trainee living in Passau.

At the News Lab, we strongly believe in the importance of quality journalism and the power of collaboration between tech and media companies to strengthen it. During elections, this is more important than ever. If you want to find out more about Google‘s efforts for the German election read our German blog.

Facts, trends and unheard voices: empowering journalists during the upcoming German election

For the News Lab, elections are opportunities to empower journalists with the technology and data they need to keep their readers informed. For the German election on September 24th, our efforts are formed around three key themes: promoting accurate content, offering data that provides helpful context, and surfacing unheard voices.

Guiding all of these efforts is a spirit of experimentation and collaboration with news partners to address the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities digital reporting presents.

Promoting accurate content

On September 4th, alongside Facebook, we began helping two organizations—First Draft and Correctiv—monitor misleading information during the German election. First Draft is a coalition of organizations dedicated to improving skills and standards in the reporting and sharing of information that emerges online. Correctiv is the first nonprofit investigative newsroom in the German-speaking world. Its fact-checking team started a few months ago and is a member of the International Fact Checking Network.

As a part of our partnership with Corrective, we funded and supported a team of journalists from across Germany called WahlCheck17 (Election Check 17). The team will work in a pop-up newsroom opened at the Corrective office to verify and fact-check online news stories and conversations in real-time during the final few weeks before the election. The team includes fact-checking experts from First Draft and Corrective, experienced students and graduates from the Hamburg Media School, and freelance journalists.

In the same vein as First Draft’s work on CrossCheck in France and our partnership with Full Fact during the UK general election in May, the WahlCheck17 team will alert German newsrooms by publishing a daily newsletter that lists the most popular rumors, manipulated photos and videos, and misleading articles and data visualizations circulating online, and offers additional context on the sources.

Using Trends to offer additional context

Google Trends offers insight into the candidates, parties, and moments that dominate the election campaign. Our new Google Trends election hub highlights search interest in top political issues and parties, with embeddable graphics that show what people across Germany have been most interested in throughout the election campaign.

7

2Q17, a unique data visualization created by the renowned data designer Moritz Stefaner, depicts queries that Germans are searching for in relation to the top candidates. This project is part of Google News Lab’s series of visual experiments to develop innovative and interactive storytelling formats to cover important news moments.

8

Surfacing unheard voices

During the French presidential election, the News Lab partnered with a publisher to surface the views of voters across France in 360. Now we’re working with Euronews on a similar project to surface unheard voices in Germany. In partnership with German regional media outlets, who will provide context on the socioeconomic conditions of their respective regions, this project will provide an immersive journey through Germany in the weeks leading up to the election. Watch the first episode starring Masih Rahimi, an Afghan migrant and IT trainee living in Passau.

At the News Lab, we strongly believe in the importance of quality journalism and the power of collaboration between tech and media companies to strengthen it. During elections, this is more important than ever. If you want to find out more about Google‘s efforts for the German election read our German blog.

Digital News Initiative Innovation Fund: Call for fourth round applications

Since its introduction, the Digital News Initiative Innovation Fund, our €150 million commitment to supporting innovation in the European news industry, has offered €73.5 million to 359 ambitious projects in digital journalism, across 29 countries. The fund is designed to provide no-strings-attached awards to those in the news industry looking for some room—and budget—to experiment. As we’re only halfway through our commitment, we’re thrilled to open the DNI Innovation Fund for a fourth round of applications. This season’s application round will be open for the next four weeks, ending October 12 (23:59 CEST).

Focus on monetization for medium and large projects

Round 4 of the DNI Innovation Fund will be slightly different from previous rounds for Medium and Large track applicants. We’ve heard clearly that monetization one of the biggest challenges currently facing news publishers. Therefore, for this fourth round of funding, we’re requiring all Medium and Large projects to provide explicit plans for monetization, with clear indicators showing the potential of the project to create economic value added for the business. Prototype projects don’t have the monetization requirement and remain, as in previous rounds, all about innovation.

Here’s a quick reminder of how the Fund works:

Projects

We’re looking for projects that demonstrate new thinking in the practice of digital journalism; that support the development of new business models, or maybe even change the way users consume digital news. Projects can be highly experimental, but must have well-defined goals and have a significant digital component. There is absolutely no requirement to use any Google products. Successful projects will show innovation and have a positive impact on the production of original digital journalism and on the long-term sustainability of the news business.

Eligibility and Funding

The Fund is open to established publishers, online-only players, news startups, collaborative partnerships and individuals based in the EU and EFTA countries. There are three categories of funding available:

  • Prototype projects: open to organizations—and to individuals—that meet the eligibility criteria, and require up to €50k of funding. These projects should be very early stage, with ideas yet to be designed and assumptions yet to be tested. We will fast-track such projects and will fund 100 percent of the total cost.

  • Medium projects: open to organizations that meet the eligibility criteria and require up to €300k of funding. We will accept funding requests up to 70 percent of the total cost of the project. Important: All medium applications need to include a clearly defined monetization component.

  • Large projects: open to organisations that meet the eligibility criteria and require more than €300k of funding. We will accept funding requests up to 70 percent of the total cost of the project. Funding is capped at €1 million. All large applications need to include a clearly defined monetization component.

Exceptions to the €1 million cap are possible for large projects that are collaborative (e.g., international, sector-wide, involving multiple organizations) or that significantly benefit the broad news ecosystem.

How to apply

Visit the new Digital News Initiative website for full details, including eligibility criteria, frequently asked questions, terms and conditions, and application forms. Applications must be made in English and the submission deadline for the fourth round of funding is October 12, 2017. We’re also hosting a live online hangout on with the DNI Fund Team on Tuesday, Sep 26, at 3pm CEST, where we’ll share learnings from the first three rounds of applications and explain what has changed for Round 4. If you have any questions or would like to hear more, hand in your questions upfront on our site.

We’ll announce the next funding recipients by the end of this year. We look forward to receiving your applications!

Digital News Initiative Innovation Fund: Call for fourth round applications

Since its introduction, the Digital News Initiative Innovation Fund, our €150 million commitment to supporting innovation in the European news industry, has offered €73.5 million to 359 ambitious projects in digital journalism, across 29 countries. The fund is designed to provide no-strings-attached awards to those in the news industry looking for some room—and budget—to experiment. As we’re only halfway through our commitment, we’re thrilled to open the DNI Innovation Fund for a fourth round of applications. This season’s application round will be open for the next four weeks, ending October 12 (23:59 CEST).

Focus on monetization for medium and large projects

Round 4 of the DNI Innovation Fund will be slightly different from previous rounds for Medium and Large track applicants. We’ve heard clearly that monetization one of the biggest challenges currently facing news publishers. Therefore, for this fourth round of funding, we’re requiring all Medium and Large projects to provide explicit plans for monetization, with clear indicators showing the potential of the project to create economic value added for the business. Prototype projects don’t have the monetization requirement and remain, as in previous rounds, all about innovation.

Here’s a quick reminder of how the Fund works:

Projects

We’re looking for projects that demonstrate new thinking in the practice of digital journalism; that support the development of new business models, or maybe even change the way users consume digital news. Projects can be highly experimental, but must have well-defined goals and have a significant digital component. There is absolutely no requirement to use any Google products. Successful projects will show innovation and have a positive impact on the production of original digital journalism and on the long-term sustainability of the news business.

Eligibility and Funding

The Fund is open to established publishers, online-only players, news startups, collaborative partnerships and individuals based in the EU and EFTA countries. There are three categories of funding available:

  • Prototype projects: open to organizations—and to individuals—that meet the eligibility criteria, and require up to €50k of funding. These projects should be very early stage, with ideas yet to be designed and assumptions yet to be tested. We will fast-track such projects and will fund 100 percent of the total cost.

  • Medium projects: open to organizations that meet the eligibility criteria and require up to €300k of funding. We will accept funding requests up to 70 percent of the total cost of the project. Important: All medium applications need to include a clearly defined monetization component.

  • Large projects: open to organisations that meet the eligibility criteria and require more than €300k of funding. We will accept funding requests up to 70 percent of the total cost of the project. Funding is capped at €1 million. All large applications need to include a clearly defined monetization component.

Exceptions to the €1 million cap are possible for large projects that are collaborative (e.g., international, sector-wide, involving multiple organizations) or that significantly benefit the broad news ecosystem.

How to apply

Visit the new Digital News Initiative website for full details, including eligibility criteria, frequently asked questions, terms and conditions, and application forms. Applications must be made in English and the submission deadline for the fourth round of funding is October 12, 2017. We’re also hosting a live online hangout on with the DNI Fund Team on Tuesday, Sep 26, at 3pm CEST, where we’ll share learnings from the first three rounds of applications and explain what has changed for Round 4. If you have any questions or would like to hear more, hand in your questions upfront on our site.

We’ll announce the next funding recipients by the end of this year. We look forward to receiving your applications!

Google’s Digital News Initiative Fund

Editor's note: In April 2015, Google announced the Digital News Initiative, a partnership with European news organizations to support high-quality journalism through technology and innovation. In this guest post, Bart Brouwers, a Dutch journalism professor at the University of Groningen and a council member of the Digital News Initiative’s Fund, looks back at what the Digital News Initiative’s fund has accomplished so far.

If the distribution of money from Google’s DNI Innovation Fund is any indicator of the state of innovation in Europe, then Britain and Germany are doing great.

With more than 90 funded projects between them in the first three rounds of funding, the two countries stand head and shoulders above the others. Germany’s projects have been allocated more than 13 million euros, with around 7 million in Britain. Spain (with 25 projects) is just behind them: 6.6 million euros. My home country the Netherlands is in the middle with 18 projects and allocated funding of 2.5 million euros.

So far, 73.5 million of the available 150 million euro have been distributed. The newest winners were announced on July 6 and we’ll begin accepting applications for Round 4 on September 13.

As a member of the DNI Innovation Fund Council, I often get questions about how the process works, how projects are evaluated and what role the Fund plays in furthering innovation in publishing. I’ll do my best to explain it here.

The DNI Council consists of three Google representatives and ten publishers, scientists and journalists from across Europe. The Chairman is Portugal’s Joao Palmeiro. For the 10 of us who are non-Googlers it’s voluntary work; For us, it’s an opportunity to see behind the scenes of European media innovation. Because of the overwhelming interest (some 3,082 initiatives were submitted for the first three rounds!), the Council focuses mainly on the category of large projects—that is, applications for more than 300,000 euros.

When we met in the Dutch innovation capital of Eindhoven this June to judge the applicants of the third round, the debate occasionally became heated; justifying the acceptance or rejection of a proposal isn’t something any of us takes lightly. The debate over each application, as well as the distribution of funding across countries takes time because, just as the level of innovation differs from country to country, so does the number of applications, the nature of the projects and more.

Because it’s difficult to weigh a blockchain application against a video project or a new distribution model for content we consider six aspects when evaluating projects: the potential impact on the European ecosystem, transformation for the organization, innovation, the use of technology, feasibility and income possibilities. In particular, in evaluating the aspect of transformation, organizations which may be lagging behind in digitization terms are given a bit of an extra chance. This means that sometimes a project receives assistance because the applicant’s organization or country might be transformed by the project—even if a similar project is already running elsewhere.

This is an important point for potential applicants to know: that the presence of a similar initiative elsewhere is not a reason to deny funding. Two initiatives working on a similar topic can sometimes have a better chance of succeeding than just one, and the circumstances between projects are always just a little bit different.

When reflecting upon the trends of which initiatives are receiving funding, I’d argue that it’s not a reflection of the Council’s taste, but of the breadth and variety of the applications. In the first two rounds, for example, as detailed in the DNI Innovation Fund Report, seven categories rose to the top: Intelligence, Workflow, Interface, Social, Business Model, Distribution and “Next Journalism.” This last group—far and away the largest—includes issues of verification (pretty much everything summed up in the battle against fake news, and restoring trust in journalism). Around 25 projects of this type received support in the first two rounds—and funding was decided before “fake news” became household language.

Of course through the Digital News Initiative, Google wants to display its friendliest face to the European media sector. That this image cannot be taken for granted recently became apparent again with the 2.4-billion fine imposed by the European Commission in its antitrust action for Google’s shopping comparison service, but the internet giant has also had other difficulties with Europe. Free news, a "captured" advertising market–these are just a few of the accusations which the publishers and the European Commission lay at Google’s door.

The DNI Fund meets a need, both for the news industry as a whole and for the individual players in it. Given the massive volume of applications, there certainly appears to be no shame in taking Google’s money.

Recently many DNI-Fund supported project teams from all over Europe met in Amsterdam to demonstrate their progress. For many, the DNI support was essential to the steps they have taken so far—and that progress should be celebrated. But it should not gloss over the fact that true innovation entails plenty of failure. For Council members, this comes up quite often: how important is it to support initiatives whose feasibility might be doubtful, but which could certainly inject new movement into the sector even if they fail? For the time being the need for media innovation in Europe is still so great that the answer is a full-throated yes.

Would you also like to submit an application to the DNI fund? Submissions will open again starting September 13 until October 12. More info on the DNI website. You can also download our first DNI Innovation Fund report 2016-2017 to read more about our funded projects and key insights.  

Google’s Digital News Initiative Fund

Editor's note: In April 2015, Google announced the Digital News Initiative, a partnership with European news organizations to support high-quality journalism through technology and innovation. In this guest post, Bart Brouwers, a Dutch journalism professor at the University of Groningen and a council member of the Digital News Initiative’s Fund, looks back at what the Digital News Initiative’s fund has accomplished so far.

If the distribution of money from Google’s DNI Innovation Fund is any indicator of the state of innovation in Europe, then Britain and Germany are doing great.

With more than 90 funded projects between them in the first three rounds of funding, the two countries stand head and shoulders above the others. Germany’s projects have been allocated more than 13 million euros, with around 7 million in Britain. Spain (with 25 projects) is just behind them: 6.6 million euros. My home country the Netherlands is in the middle with 18 projects and allocated funding of 2.5million euros.

So far, 73.5m of the available 150m euro have been distributed. The newest winners were announced on July 6th and we’ll begin accepting applications for Round 4 on September 13th.

As a member of the DNI Innovation Fund Council, I often get questions about how the process works, how projects are evaluated and what role the Fund plays in furthering innovation in publishing. I’ll do my best to explain it here.

The DNI Council consists of three Google representatives and ten publishers, scientists and journalists from across Europe. The Chairman is Portugal’s Joao Palmeiro. For the ten of us who are non-Googlers it’s voluntary work; For us,: it’s an opportunity to see behind the scenes of European media innovation. Because of the overwhelming interest (some 3,082 initiatives were submitted for the first three rounds!), the Council focuses mainly on the category of large projects—that is, applications for more than 300,000 euros.

When we met in the Dutch innovation capital of Eindhoven this June to judge the applicants of the third round, the debate occasionally became heated; justifying the acceptance or rejection of a proposal isn’t something any of us takes lightly. The debate over each application, as well as the distribution of funding across countries takes time because, just as the level of innovation differs from country to country, so does the number of applications, the nature of the projects and more.

Because  it’s difficult to weigh a blockchain application against a video project or a new distribution model for content we consider six aspects when evaluating projects: the potential impact on the European ecosystem, transformation for the organization, innovation, the use of technology, feasibility and income possibilities. In particular, in evaluating the aspect of transformation, organizations which may be lagging behind in digitization terms are given a bit of an extra chance. This means that sometimes a project receives assistance because the applicant’s organization or country might be transformed by the project—even if a similar project is already running elsewhere.

This is an important point for potential applicants to know: that the presence of a similar initiative elsewhere is not a reason to deny funding.  Two initiatives working on a similar topic can sometimes have a better chance of succeeding than just one, and the circumstances between projects are always just a little bit different.

When reflecting upon the trends of which initiatives are receiving funding, I’d argue that it’s not a reflection of the Council’s taste, but of the breadth and variety of the applications. In the first two rounds, for example, as detailed in the DNI Innovation Fund Report, seven categories rose to the top: Intelligence, Workflow, Interface, Social, Business Model, Distribution and “Next Journalism.” This last group—far and away the largest— includes issues of verification (pretty much everything summed up in the battle against fake news, and restoring trust in journalism). Around 25 projects of this type received support in the first two rounds—and funding was decided before “fake news” became household language.

Of course through the Digital News Initiative, Google wants to display its friendliest face to the European media sector. That this image cannot be taken for granted recently became apparent again with the 2.4-billion fine imposed by the European Commission in its antitrust action for Google’s shopping comparison service, but the internet giant has also had other difficulties with Europe. Free news, a ‘captured’ advertising market – these are just a few of the accusations which the publishers and the European Commission lay at Google’s door.

The DNI Fund meets a need, both for the news industry as a whole and for the individual players in it. Given the massive volume of applications, there certainly appears to be no shame in taking Google’s money.

Recently many DNI-Fund supported project teams from all over Europe met in Amsterdam to demonstrate their progress. For many, the DNI support was essential to the steps they have taken so far—and that progress should be celebrated. But it should not gloss over the fact that true innovation entails plenty of failure. For Council members, this comes up quite often: how important is it to support initiatives whose feasibility might be doubtful, but which could certainly inject new movement into the sector even if they fail? For the time being the need for media innovation in Europe is still so great that the answer is a full-throated yes.

Would you also like to submit an application to the DNI fund? Submissions will open again from September, 13 until October, 12. More info here. You can download our first DNI Innovation Fund report 2016-2017 here to read more about our funded projects and key insights.