Google, Facebook woo news media with ‘innovation challenge’ and ‘newsroom transformation’ training

After years of being critiqued for destroying the business model of the news media industry, cornering a lion’s share of ad dollars and fostering the spread of ‘fake news’, Google and Facebook have taken initiatives to promote media outlets.

Google is bringing back its Google News Initiative for the Asia-Pacific region which was first launched last year. Google said: “It’s part of a $300 million commitment to help journalism thrive in the digital age.”

Last year, 23 outlets from across the Asia-Pacific region received funding to the tune of $3.2 million for projects that aimed to strengthen digital innovation and business models for news organisations. 

The aim of this year’s project is to fund media outlets that have ideas to increase reader engagement. Google said: “The more deeply people engage with the stories they read, the more likely they are to return to a news website, visit more pages during a session, sign up for an email newsletter and become subscribers.  

“We’re interested in hearing about creative ideas including but not limited to personalisation, analytics, audio and loyalty programs.”

Google said it will fund selected projects up to USD $250,000 and will finance up to 70% of the total project cost.

Everyone from traditional news publishers to startups and NGOs are free to apply as long as they can clearly delineate the impact of the project and deliver it within a year. Last year’s winners included entries from Nepal, Mongolia and Singapore Press Holdings from Singapore

Social networking giant Facebook has teamed up with the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) to launch newsroom transformation 2020, a six month training programme for media outlets across the South East Asia region. 

Speaking about the project, Facebook said: “The program will ensure current and future newsroom leaders have the insight, know-how, and tools to build and execute a digital transformation strategy in their newsrooms.”

Speaking about the partnership WAN-IFRA COO Thomas Jacob said: “WAN-IFRA is committed to supporting publishers around the world as they build expertise and services that will allow them to prosper and continue their important work.

“By partnering with Facebook, we have designed a program specific to publishers in Asia. It ensures they have an opportunity to build business and storytelling skills while continuing to report on the issues that matter in this region.”

Applications will open in November and sessions will start in March across Facebook offices in the region and be made available online. Facebook’s other initiatives in the region include a video accelerator programme in South East Asia and Hong Kong to train organisations experimenting with video content. 

Facebook’s video product was notably in the news amid allegations that it had severely inflated its viewership metrics on the platform, affecting both media houses that had pivoted to video storytelling and advertisers. 


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