Innovation — in newsrooms and elsewhere — takes more than a new idea. It requires transforming that idea into value for the organization, whether that looks like a revamped business model, a new platform to more easily investigate abuses of power, or technology to distribute journalism to new audiences.
A new study investigates reasons that one-year grants supplied by Google News Initiative (GNI) in Africa and the Middle East resulted in a number of projects that fall short of that definition, instead producing “minimum viable products” that were under-realized versions of the original ideas.
There’s no doubt that the Google News Initiative has come as a welcome boost to newsrooms across the globe. After several waves of grants — and despite a lack of transparency around the grant-giving — researchers have started to evaluate their impact. Recent results, published in the open access journal Media and Communication, also shed light on the challenges news outlets in these regions face as they seek financial stability, navigate asymmetrical power dynamics with technology partners, and grapple with the news industry’s longstanding reluctance to embrace innovation.
This group of researchers — Mathias‐Felipe de‐Lima‐Santos (University of Amsterdam), Allen Munoriyarwa (University of Botswana), Adeola Abdulateef Elega (Nile University of Nigeria), and Charis Papaevangelou (University of Toulouse) — focused on newsrooms in Africa and the Middle East, in part because these “overlooked regions” are “where journalists are often in dire need of funding.”
The authors are upfront about the fact that their data-gathering process was “fraught with challenges.” Out of more 43 news organizations in Africa and the Middle East that received grants from Google News Initiative until 2021, they were able to interview 13 in-depth. (Some organizations declined to participate, citing non-disclosure agreements signed with Google. Others were simply unresponsive.) They also analyzed the publicly available project descriptions.
Across all 43 projects funded by GNI in these regions, 42% involved developing a business model. Another 30% of projects sought to bring “emerging technological innovations” to the news organization and 28% focused on audience building using methods like SMS and podcasts.
Source : gijn