The Digital News Initiative Innovation Fund Annual Report 2016-2017

We’ve been observing the progress and milestones of DNI-funded projects and wanted to share their stories.

Looking back to look forward

Journalism is vital to a functioning society. Throughout history, news publishers have played a critical role in maintaining democracy, helping to define public opinion and — crucially — holding power to account. The past decade has presented significant challenges and opportunities for creating and distributing quality journalism, which is why, two years ago, we established Google’s Digital News Initiative (DNI).

Designed to foster collaboration between publishers and Google, the DNI has three main areas of focus: product development, research and training and the DNI Innovation Fund, our €150 million commitment to supporting innovation in the European news industry.

I remember the excitement I felt in anticipation of reading the first applications that came in, and feeling humbled by the responsibility to evaluate each one of them.

As any former journalist or digital officer knows, it is difficult to carve out the time (and budget) needed for new ideas to thrive in a busy newsroom. From the outset, we designed the Fund to provide no-strings-attached awards to those in the news ecosystem looking for some room to experiment and test ideas.

We were happy (and a bit surprised!) to hear from applicants the application process itself was key in stimulating ideas. We gave applicants the opportunity to step back from their daily operations, to brainstorm with teams across companies, to break silos and to show up with new solutions for industry challenges. We didn’t know what to expect from this recipe – but the outcome far exceeded our expectations. 

Since 2016, the DNI Innovation Fund Team evaluated more than 3,000 applications, carried out 748 interviews and offered more than €73m in funding to 359 projects in 29 European countries. The report details the impact and diversity of the projects we funded. From startups to large newsrooms, these projects are helping to shape the future of journalism. We are enormously proud to see some of these product developments and innovative technologies are already being used by the European public.

Some have embraced the opportunities of big data, blockchain technology and machine learning, reinventing everything from subscription offers to fact checking. Others have taken the paths of internal transformation through massive efforts in video, new ways to engage readers or to cover local news. 

We were especially touched by the industry’s willingness to work together to find solutions. We looked for collaborations and you rose to the challenge with an array of great projects across Europe and beyond.

We’ve learned a lot in such a short time. Before suggesting next iterations of the Fund and how we can be more innovative ourselves, we wanted to share what has already been done. I hope you will find this report both informative and inspiring. It’s been an honour to work with you all. 

Download the Fund’s first annual report here (PDF, 12 MB), see the full list of all recipients here or read the case studies below. Further case studies will be posted to this website over time.

Since 2016 we've evaluated more than 3000 applications. We have given news organisations of all sizes the space to try some new things.

Ludovic Blecher
Head of the Google DNI Innovation Fund at Google

Case Studies and Insights: