Latin American media to get $4.4 million as part of Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge

Thirty winners in 10 Latin American countries were selected as part of the Google News Initiative Innovation Challenges for 2019 and together will receive about US $4.4 million to develop digital projects.

“The LatAm GNI Innovation Challenge winners show that Latin American journalism is full of vibrant and exciting ideas,” Marco Túlio Pires, who is the lead of the Innovation Challenge project team in the region, told the Knight Center. “From big media conglomerates to small nonprofits, we have projects that will tackle challenges around content distribution, the use of open data and how artificial intelligence can help the industry achieve a sustainable future. We couldn’t have been more inspired by the amount of creativity coming from Latin America.”

Brazil is the top country represented with 12 winners, followed by Argentina (6), Colombia (2), Costa Rica (2), Mexico (2), Peru (2), Chile (1), Guatemala (1), El Salvador (1) and Uruguay (1).

The announcement was made during the 2019 Digital Media Latam conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil hosted by the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).

The winners were selected from 303 entries submitted after the Latin American leg of the challenge was announced on June 6.

Winning projects focus on membership, subscriptions, advertising, machine learning, artificial intelligence, gamification, misinformation, fake news, open data, news for kids, engagement and more.

Collaboration is key for a group of 10 journalistic organizations from Brazil who will work to create “Reload,” a video newsroom for urban Brazilian youth that will publish content from all outlets involved.

“Reload is an important project for understanding how young people relate to news and for engaging young Brazilians with quality journalism,” said Marina Dias, communication manager at Agência Pública. “In addition, Reload will be the first collaborative video project by 10 different newsrooms (A Pública, Agência Lupa, Repórter Brasil, Congresso em Foco, Ponte Jornalismo, Énois, Colabora, Marco Zero Conteúdo, O Eco and Nova Escola).”

The participants will study how best to engage audiences and then determine which platforms these “short and dynamic” videos will be shared on, Dias explained.

In El Salvador, digital site El Faro will create “The Conversation Lab” to foster discussion and debate among readers.

José Luis Sanz, director of El Faro, said the idea to create the lab came from a need to foster quality conversation that avoided the toxicity present in many comments sections and social networks. In the face of the current climate in El Salvador, the team wanted to “reclaim conversation and dialogue.”

The site closed its comments section four years ago as it couldn’t find a “functional solution to clean up the conversation.”

“We want to reward and generate a tool that encourages those contributions that feed the conversation, that those that close it but open it, and that invite interaction and invite the exchange of arguments,” Sanz said. “For that, what we want is to generate a specific development for comments and to open chat rooms on our pages, on the pages of El Faro, and at the same time for this to interact with offline spaces, for there to be a transition to offline spaces in which our community can meet to continue those conversations.”

The Innovation Challenges, which are held in different regions across the globe, aim to “empower news innovators from around the world to demonstrate new thinking in online journalism and the development of new publishing business models,” according to its site.

Click here to check out the list of all winning projects from Latin America and the unique solutions they seek to offer for a changing media environment.