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Google offers funding for 'creative approaches' to sustainable business models for news

Google is offering “no-strings” funding for “creative approaches” to building a sustainable business model for news as it opens the final round of applications for its Digital News Innovation fund.

The fund, which launched three years ago, has so far paid out $115.2m of its $150m money pot to support more than 559 digital journalism projects across 30 countries.

Proposals for the final round of funding could include models to boost reader revenue, cost-saving technology, the diversification of revenue streams and new ways to monetise products, Google said.

“New approaches have never been more needed,” said a spokesperson. “So it’s time to experiment and try something novel. We’re ready and waiting to help you bring your ideas to reality.”

The Government’s Cairncross Review is currently looking at how to sustain high-quality journalism in a changing market. It is expected to report its findings in the New Year.

Google has been criticised, along with Facebook, for taking the lion’s share of digital advertising money. Press Gazette’s Duopoly campaign is calling on it to pay more back to news publishers, on whose content it relies.

In an interview with Press Gazette last week, Google’s UK and Ireland boss, Ronan Harris, denied the money it was paying out to the news industry through initiatives such as the DNI amounted to mere “sticking plasters” when it was winning the competition for ad money.

“We are supplying technology to the news industry that helps them generate the advertising revenue,” Harris said. “We don’t make money unless the news industry makes money…”

Applications for the sixth and final round of DNI funding are open to established news brands, start-ups, individuals and digital-only brands.

Three tiers of funding are on offer. The smallest offers a maximum grant of €50,000, while the largest offers between €300,000 and €1m.

There is no requirement to incorporate Google products into funding application proposals.

Earlier this year, Press Gazett reported that a Telegraph chatbot and a Pink News LGBT advocacy platform had received significant funding from the DNI pot.

Previous recipients include Press Association’s Reporters And Data And Robots, or Radar, scheme using computers to write localised news stories from big data.

On its applications website, Google wrote: “The DNI fund supports those in the news industry looking to experiment, to help secure the future for quality journalism.

“We’re on the lookout for great ideas and welcome any brillant plan for which applicants, especially new ones, need some time, space and budget to bring it to life.

“Why are we doing this? Because at Google, we know from experience that the biggest, boldest ideas often start small and require nurturing.

“Through the DNI fund, we want to give new approaches the freedom to grow – and hopefully to soar.”

Applications for the final round of funding must be made by 3 December 3 2018. Recipients of Google money will be announced in March next year.

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