Highlights from Google’s DNI Fund Round 5

24 July 2018
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It’s that time of the summer again, with Google announcing the latest recipients of funding from round 5 of their Digital News Initiative. Audio was the clear standout, with roughly 17% of all projects focusing on audio, whether that be creating content for smart speakers, podcasts, or something else. Video comes in second, with roughly 7% of projects working on aiding journalists working in the multimedia format. 3 projects will dive into blockchain, while another 3 projects will work on paywalls, from creating referral programs to building more innovative data-driven paywalls. Germany and France stand out for the number of projects funded, with 15 and 13 projects respectively.

To understand further where funding for innovation in media goes, we’ve hand picked 7 projects that stand out.

Vocally Yours – ADA, Wirtschaftswoche

With more and more news consumers seeking out audio content, text-focused media companies are facing the challenge of transforming their journalism into audio on a large-scale. While we’ve seen Text-to-Speech technologies employed at other companies, German business weekly Wirtschaftswoche, owned by Handelsblatt, will take generating it a step further. Instead of using the same ‘voices’ for all content, the newly created audio content will mimick the individual journalist’s voice. Through Natural Language Processing, Vocally Yours will automatically transform written content into audio by imitating the particular tonality and conversational style of a real-life journalist.

Royalty – Il Sole 24 Ore

Italian publisher Il Sole 24 Ore have received funding for a large project (€739k) that will see journalists working directly with AI to give readers a highly personalised news experience. This new kind of digital newspaper, called Royalty, will begin this fall and last for 16 months. It will deliver content that is personalised to the particular preferences for time, place, interest, and formats each reader cares about. This will help to emphasise more direct relationships between content creators and consumers.

Smart Commute – NevaLabs

NevaLabs has announced they’ve received funding for their “Smart Commute” project which will give readers unique personal news experiences that match their daily commutes. It will experiment with both audio and text formats, personalised for each reader.

This concept reminds us of the LabRdr experiment from The Guardian which let readers set how long and when their commute was and then gave them enough content for their commute each day.

Bonsai – Bonnier News

A new development in publishers taking edition-based strategies for success, Bonnier News will use extreme personalisation to tailor limited content selection for users, giving them “the feeling of being done for the day.” This innovation project, called Bonsai, will also explore different users’ propensity to pay for this service.

Income Attribution & Personalised Content – El Independiente

“If each user consumes information and advertising in a different manner, why should they all have to pay for content in the same way?”

That’s the question Spanish digital newspaper El Independiente, launched in 2016,  will tackle in their new innovation project. They’ve identified the discrepancy between the many ways readers consume content and the one size fits all payment models. With their new project “Income Attribution & Personalised Content” they’ll aim to personalise each user experience around what they value the most, and then design a business model around it.

Portugal Now – Diario de Noticias da Madeira

A joint project from 14 local Portuguese newspapers, Portugal Now will enable publishers to get into the tourism game. This new local travel platform will let travellers access local experiences such as homestays, local meals, and guided tours via augmented reality and gamification. Available in 4 different languages, this platform will supply tourists trustworthy content on their surroundings while giving residents betters coverage of their local experiences.

Multilingual local news bot – Turun Sanomat

Turun Sanomat, the leading regional newspaper in Southwest Finland, will create a multilingual local news bot to help open up their content to new audiences of non-Finnish speakers. By offering automatic language translations, Turun Sanomat will be able to deliver their content, full of useful local information, to new immigrants and other non-Finnish speaking residents. This project will also help ascertain new insights into how automatic translation technologies work best in a local news context.

This article was written by Mary-Katharine Phillips, Media Innovation Analyst at Twipe from 2017 – 2021.

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