Google bolsters hyperlocal sector with second round of DNI Innovation Fund

By Matt Abbott | 17th Nov 2016

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The second round of funding provided by Google through the Digital News Initiative (DNI) was announced today, and for the hyperlocal, independent news sector there’s much to be enthusiastic about.

Of the £20.6m awarded across 25 European countries, the UK is set to pocket £1.51m to innovate digital spaces around the nation.

And a healthy portion of that is going to help local and hyperlocal projects.

While Trinity Mirror won the bulk of the money to develop an alternative to promoted content links, many ‘medium’ projects, and ‘prototype’ projects with a more community-led focus were also successful.

The Ferret, Scotland’s award-winning online investigative journalism cooperative was awarded €50,000 to launch a fact-checking service called Ferret Fact Check.

The Ferret said: ‘We will use the money to launch a fact checking service that will challenge misinformation and expose falsehoods.

‘Ferret Fact Check will be a new and distinct project, in line with Google’s application criteria, that will augment our growing reputation as a transparent, independent and reader-owned platform for multi-media stories that hold power to account.’

Media entrepreneur Stuart Goulden, won a similar amount for the OtherWorld experiment – a project aimed at delivering ‘next generation local news experiences using beacon technology… promising to transform people’s smartphones and wearable devices into proactive media companions.’

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And Johnston Press won a six-figure grant to develop a mobile platform that provides location-specific, trending content.

According to the JP press release, the platform will be ‘powered by social media whilst also editorially curated, enabling Johnston Press to deliver immediate, engaging and hyper-local content to its audiences across the UK.

‘By detecting the user’s location or destination, the most popular content is consolidated to create a unique and bespoke experience that allows the user to immerse themselves in the most current and trending information, driven by local relevance.’

Steven Thomas, director of emerging products at Johnston Press, said: “With the ambition to truly aggregate owned, social and local content into a product that gives broader insight into what is relevant and interesting across the local digital content landscape.’

How the hyperlocal sector will benefit from this round of funding remains to be seen.

There are myriad problems across the sector yet solutions have failed to materialise. Sustainable revenue streams, funding, and a coherent voice to name but a few.

It’s optimistic that digital intermediaries like Google recognise they have to be part of a system that not only identifies where these problems are, but helps to resolve them too.

In this second round of funding Google focused on collaboration as a key criterion.

On his blog, Ludovic Blecher, head of the DNI Innovation Fund said: ‘The projects that stood out prioritse collaborative approaches between publishers, academics, designers and entrepreneurs, both within a single country and across Europe.’

He added: ‘We see this collaboration – across countries, across newsrooms and across specialities – as an amazing display of the intent to energise the European news ecosystem with new ideas new technologies and more.’

For the full list of the 124 projects that have been funding, click here.

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