The fifth round of Google's Digital News Initiative (DNI) Fund is now open, with applications being accepted until 9 April.

The fund aims to support innovation in digital journalism, nurturing the development of new business models, as well as the changing way in which audiences now consume digital news. So far, the fund has allocated €94 million to 461 projects across 29 countries in Europe.

The theme for the fifth round is 'diversifying revenue streams and innovative monetisation ideas', so all medium project applicants, who are requesting up to €300,000 and large project applicants, who are requesting even more, will need to demonstrate that their pitches have a monetisation component in order to be eligible. Prototype projects don’t have the monetisation requirement and remain, like in previous rounds, all about innovation.

Monetisation was also the theme for the previous round of the fund, although this time the aim is to encourage news outlets to look beyond paywalls, said Ludovic Blecher, head of the DNI fund, adding that his team is open to answering any questions people might have during the process.

“Applicants should spend time on the website, looking at the FAQs, reading the terms and conditions and analysing previous projects – it should be seen as a process.

“It’s so important that applicants spend time to try to understand our criteria."

Projects will be evaluated against three main criteria: impact, innovation and feasibility. Google is looking for projects that could have a wider application or provide learning for other people in the industry, as well as benefitting the applicant.

"Applicants should demonstrate that their project is innovative to them, depending on their starting point, and depending on the local media landscape,” he said. 

“Why does it have an impact on the ecosystem? How is the idea tackling issues that the industry has in new ways? 

“Often in applications, people start with their constraints rather than starting with the opportunities that their idea can provide for the readership and the audience."

Blecher explained that teams must also show that they have the ability to carry out the project and outline the resources needed to develop it.

Round four of the DNI Fund saw Google award more than €20 million to media projects in Europe, includng Go Digital, a publishing platform being developed by Impresa in Portugal to provide local and regional outlets with a solution for monetising their digital content; and Soldr, a service from Sweden’s Mittmedia that will use available data about user interaction and content and apply machine learning to support the creation of individually personalised content products.

“It is important for applicants to give us an explicit monetisation plan – we want to see the opportunities. It doesn’t mean that the business plan will be followed, we just want to see that there is potential,” he said. 

“You can also provide additional information in your application, such as eight or 10 slides underlying who you are, what the project is, why it is innovative, how you’re tackling specific issues, how it works from a user perspective and the monetisation opportunities."

Round five project announcements will be in July, but applications are only open for five weeks. Apply here.

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