The GNI Innovation Challenge

To empower news innovators from around the world to demonstrate new thinking in the era of online journalism and publishing business models.
Submission Deadline
Funding & Project Sponsorship



The Google News Initiative (GNI) is our global effort to work with the news industry to help journalism thrive in the digital age. Through rounds of regional funding, the GNI Innovation Challenges will empower news innovators from around the world to demonstrate new thinking in online journalism and the development of new publishing business models. In turn, we hope to share knowledge generated from the projects with the wider industry.


As a part of the Google News Initiative’s $300M commitment to help journalism thrive in the digital age, we’ve launched GNI Innovation Challenges to support projects that drive digital innovation and develop new business models. The GNI will fund a set of projects from around the world that meet specified criteria, with the intent of producing learnings and thought leadership that can be shared with the wider industry.

The Challenge will focus on creative projects that generate revenue and/or increase audience engagement for local journalism. Google will fund selected projects up to USD $300,000 and will finance up to 70% of the total project cost. Special discretion on the total project cap may be considered by The Jury depending on the scale and impact of a very large collaborative application.


Currently only accepting applications for Middle East, Africa & Turkey GNI Innovations

Apply Now


Application Process

There will be one application window opening on May 28th, 2019 9:00 PT and closing July 15, 2019 23:59 PT. Only online applications in English will be considered. You will be asked to provide descriptions, detailed project plans and budget information via our online application form. 

You will also have to accept the North America GNI Innovation Challenge Application Terms and Conditions.

Application Eligibility Requirements

The North America GNI Innovation Challenge is open to organizations of every size - digital natives, startups, NGOs, industry organizations, broadcasters, traditional news organizations, freelancers, and sole proprietors - that aim to produce innovative, original journalism and to enlighten citizens with trustworthy journalistic content, and whose projects focus on encouraging a more sustainable news ecosystem. Organizations must be incorporated or based in one of the eligible countries in North America as outlined below.

Eligible Regions

Incorporated organizations must be incorporated in one of the eligible countries (see below). Unincorporated organizations must be registered in the North America region (or, if unregistered, have their principal place of business there).

Eligible Countries

  • Canada (excluding Quebec)
  • United States
  • United States Overseas Territories

Eligible Projects

The first North America GNI Innovation Challenge will focus on projects that help build a more sustainable ecosystem for local news in North America through supporting creative projects that generate revenue and/or increase audience engagement for local news. All ideas are welcome, but we are requiring all projects to have clear indicators showing the impact of the project from a user perspective and/or for a business perspective (e.g. audience indicators, business plan when relevant, etc.) Successful projects will also need to be delivered within one year.

Projects can be experimental but must be for sites that are already in operation at the time of application and must have measurable, well-defined goals. We encourage you to clearly underline the opportunities of the project by providing clear key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs should have a significant digital component.

Projects will be evaluated against four main criteria:

  1. Impact on the news ecosystem: Projects should demonstrate potential for significant positive impact on the creation of new revenue streams and/or change the way people consume digital news.
  2. Innovation: Preferred projects will be innovative (use of technology, business model, new reader engagement approaches, etc.) and transformative for the applicant and for users.
  3. Feasibility: Project should demonstrate clear indicators and metrics or even a business plan, when relevant, and set out key risks and mitigation steps.
  4. Inspiration: How can the project help news organizations learn from each other? Willingness to share knowledge, open source code and/or contribute to the improvement of the ecosystem overall.

Projects that would NOT qualify for Innovation Challenge funding include:

  1. Projects relating to news coverage only or projects merely translating news content into other languages
  2. Upgrades of legacy publishing systems
  3. Projects that relate to simply collating or listing data (for example, the publication of job listings or stock exchange data, or the re-publication of newswires articles);
  4. Projects on training or education only
  5. Projects which do not have any monetization component
  6. Projects which do not impact a news organization
  7. Projects which reflect research without implementation

Project Funding

Google will fund up to $300,000 to selected projects. Special discretion on the total project cap may be considered by The Jury depending on the scale and impact of a very large collaborative application. Google will finance up to 70% of the overall costs of the selected projects. Organizations are expected to detail costs for their projects, and this can include in-kind expenditure (for example, people assigned to the project) as part of their budget. Eligible expenses include engineering and operations costs (e.g. product development, project management, user experience design, database build and maintenance, and hosting), the purchase or licensing of any equipment, tools, hardware, software and other assets or materials needed for the project and marketing expenses (capped to 20% of the total amount requested). Editorial expenses are not part of the eligible costs for the Google-funded portion of a project and will not be covered. Certain editorial expenses, such as personnel costs may be eligible for the self-funded portion of the overall project budget. Funding may not be spent on general and overhead costs. Please note that the effective date for the project will be the date that we signed the funding agreement. No expenses incurred before this date can be covered by the funding.


Applications to the North America GNI Innovation Challenge are reviewed by a combination of the Google Project Team and The Jury. The Project Team will review all applications and interview applicants and then make a recommendation on funding projects. The Project Team includes, but is not limited to:

  • Nikhil Joshi - Global Partnerships Solutions Lead, News & Publishing
  • Juan Marchese - News Program Manager
  • Simon Rogers - Data Editor, News Lab
  • Shweta Sathe - Partner operations manager
  • Sarah Hartley - GNI Innovation Challenges
  • Ben Shaw - GNI Innovation Challenges
  • Valerie Streit - Partner operations manager, Google News
  • Chrissy Towle - Head of News and Local Media, Global Partnerships

The Jury, a mix of Google executives and external experts from the North America news industry, will vote on projects and is responsible for oversight of the GNI Challenge.