Seven tips to secure funding from Google’s Digital News Initiative

Google’s Digital News Initiative (DNI) has supported 461 innovative projects since its launch three years ago and spent more than €94 million supporting media innovation. As a fresh round of funding approaches – the next call for applications should open before the end of the year – how can your project take advantage? Google has received more than 4,800 applications since it first started the fund, so how can your application stand out?

Louis Dumoulin, head of UK office at the consultancy and digital transformation agency CosaVostra, and Daniel Daum, digital transformation consultant and former managing director of Prisma, have both helped organisations apply to the DNI fund and shared their insights to the process with July’s newsrewired audience.

CosaVostra has helped more than 20 projects obtain DNI funding, with an impressive 80% success rate from all the projects it has assisted. The bad news is there is no unique way of being successful when applying: “We didn’t break the code, unfortunately. It’s all about the right strategy for your team,” said Dumoulin. If you are looking for an easy or magic solution to secure funding, there isn’t one, but some of the tips below could give you a better chance:

Projects must be news related
This may look seem obvious but sometimes it’s easy to miss the fundamental point of the the DNI when ideas start to form in your mind. You can have a great idea for a simple plugin (like CosaVostra’s PodScript) as well as for an ambitious project to realise a public-free-to-access virtual reality environment in your newsroom (which is something the Italian newspaper La Stampa with The ROOM). But always remember that it’s all about the news.

“Impact on your ecosystem”
“You should always set the bar high and think of ways in which your ideas can have an impact on your ecosystem,” explains Dumoulin. For example, this could mean focusing on a very local project (there’s a plenty of examples from previous rounds of the DNI) or partnering with other companies to realise a tool that can be beneficial for you as well as for others. “Applying with a collaborative project is definitely a plus,” Dumoulin assured.

Always be willing to change
What if you are working hard on your application and you realise you are going in the wrong direction? Don’t panic, you can always change or adapt your project to make your application even more effective. The golden rule from Daniel Daum is that “you must have a clear idea of the experience you want to deliver”. That’s the goal, all the rest is just the way to reach it.

Innovating can be easier than you think
Thinking of innovative ideas doesn’t mean that you have to create a new technology from scratch. A lot of successful projects are based on the assembly of existing technologies in order to create a different and new user experience.

Feasibility criteria
You have to prove that your project is not just wishful thinking. It must be something doable and something that you can do. Forget sci-fi technologies and focus on concrete projects.

Keep an eye on the details
This point can mean a lot of different things, from setting benchmarks to creating wireframes to support your projects. Forget the “less is more” principle for once – you can never be too detailed or precise when you are asking for hundreds of millions of euros in funding. A good tip from Dumoulin: why not send letters of interests to support your project?

There’s no room for opportunism
Google’s DNI is a programme for authentic enthusiasts: there is no room for bluffing. You have to seriously commit to your project and to the application.

You might be interested in …