Google Picks 3 Kenyan Media Houses for Multimillion Funding

Google Headquarters in California.
Google Headquarters in California.

Google launched its third Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge in Africa and around the world and three Kenyan media houses emerged among 227 outlets that were selected for the challenge with up to Ksh29.7 million funding.

The challenge is based on anything from using Artificial Intelligence in the newsroom to diversifying business model or figuring out ways to increase audience engagement or reach new audiences.

"Whatever it is, we want to hear your sharpest solutions to the challenges faced on the ground," announced Google.

_KTN News studios pictured in October 2021. .jpg
A photo of KTN News studios along Mombasa Road in October 2021.
Nicholas Wambua

Applicants were tasked to clearly outline the potential opportunities of the project by providing clear indicators such as audience metrics, subscriptions growth or financial expected impact.

The three Kenyan beneficiaries are owned by the Nation Media Group, Royal Media Services, and the Standard Group.

Nation.Africa was selected to develop desirable, trusted content that is localized for communities in pre-urban and rural areas, leveraging on verified user generated content for engagement. The content will be relatable, engaging and grow a network effect for the brand

The product will also leverage on the strong trusted Nation Media brand, access to highly skilled talent, regional footprint and multimedia presence in the region.

The other recipient is Wananchi Reporting of RM which was picked and will be tasked to offer tech-driven, interactive platform to marginalized members of the public to allow then contribute to the news ecosystem in measured, objective and assisted format.

The platform will also provide specific features that will allow both the unserved and underserved Kenyans from remote and excluded areas to tell their stories and high diversity in a manner that avoids misrepresentation.

Another outlet selected is Standard Group for its Messenger reader revenue project integrates bots and AI onto WhatsApp number as well as a USSD platform that the audience can prompt and interact with to access news and other content categories of interest.

The product will be on a subscription basis where the audience can select their content category then  pay for the content of choice via mobile money.

The Standard Group has been tasked to curate content across different content categories such as on farming, investigative content that will be conveyed through text, audio and video.

"African news innovators have come up with new ways to improve access to news, public participation, fact-checking, and including people with disabilities. 21 projects selected from African countries including in Burundi, Congo, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa," announced Google.

The innovation challenge was opened in February this year and closed on April 5. Google used a rigorous exercise to enlist qualified applicants and were evaluated against five criteria which included innovation, impact on news ecosystem, diversity, equity and inclusion; inspiration; and feasibility.

The GNI Innovation Challenges was employed by the tech giant to empower news organizations from around the world that pioneer new thinking in online journalism, develop new paths to sustainability and better understand their communities.

Google Headquartes in San Jose, Carlifonia
Google Headquarters in San Jose, California
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