The Google News Initiative today announced the winners of its Asia-Pacific Innovation Challenge, awarding 23 publishers in 14 countries funding and support for their proposed new business initiatives.
The challenge was announced in November, and is aimed at strengthening Google’s relationship with publishers and helping them create new business models to sustain quality journalism, as digital advertising revenue continues to decline for most publishers.
Centred on the theme of reader revenue, more than 215 applications from 18 countries were entered, with 23 winners sharing US$3.2 million in funding from Google for their ideas.
“We wanted to see the theme of innovation that we see in the rest of Asia-Pacific come through for news," Kate Beddoe, Google APAC head of news and publishing partnerships, told Campaign Asia-Pacific. "With such a strong response, it’s a strong indication that the Asia news industry is eager to innovate.”
The winning proposals range from introducing subscription-based membership models to employing machine learning and gamification to increase engagement and conversion. A few of the winners include:
- Commonwealth Magazine in Taiwan, using machine learning to personalise content, including delivering a customised newsletter, to increase membership
- Japan’s Asahi Shimbun, encouraging readers to tip or donate to journalists or stories through gamification to help expand to non-subscribers
- Star Media Group in Malaysia introducing micropayments and membership to fund investigative journalism
- Crikey in Australia, which derives 90% of revenue from subscribers, offering a group subscription to grow its readership.
Beddoe added that she was especially pleased at the breadth of the winners, both geographically, with winners from mature markets such as Japan and Australia alongside those from emerging markets like Nepal and Myanmar, and in terms of the types of companies applying, including both longstanding publishers and new media startups.
“The most important thing is these ideas represent real change in the countries they operate in,” she said. “For GNI, we’re seeing business at different stages and origins, which helps us build a much better picture of what’s required and what is possible.”
The next steps for the winners involve receiving the funding and getting further support from the GNI APAC Innovation Challenge team to help bring the proposals to maturity over the next year. Beddoe said GNI is committed to providing another innovation challenge in APAC this year, but the timing and theme are yet to be confirmed.