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Google comes to the rescue of newsrooms

The Journalism Emergency Relief Fund has announced grants for 25 South African publications

Two dozen South African publications have been granted funding from a Google initiative launched in April to help publishers facing financial hardship as a result of the economic crisis brought avout by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Google News Initiative Journalism Emergency Relief Fund (JERF) has released a list of 25 local publications that will benefit from $39.5-million in funding being distributed to publishers in 115 countries.

“The money is being applied in diverse and creative ways from ensuring basic reporting needs, giving emergency stipends to allow reporters to cover the crisis, to driving audience engagement and generating subscriptions,” says Ludovic Blecher, Head of Google News Initiative Innovation. “Additionally, a significant number also said they are prioritising a need for cultural change, including a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion as well as organisational and business management changes.”

Within the first two weeks’ of launch JERF had received applications from 12,000 publishers across the globe, with newsroom sizes ranging from an average of 20 in Asia Pacific to 8 in North America.

“The massive response gave us the opportunity to understand what “local” means in different parts of the globe and how dynamics ranging from newsroom size to ownership structure can differ depending on the region and the kinds of communities served,” Blecher says.

An optional reader revenue survey conducted by GNI shed further light on the crisis facing publishers, he says.

“Advertising continues to be the sole source of revenue for most recipients with 50% claiming to be totally advertising dependent. The survey also showed that less than 30% operate some form of a paywall while less than 18% rely on community contributions or memberships to support their journalism. However, the situation is changing with 60% of the recipients planning to diversify their revenue streams through developing subscription, membership or contribution models.

“The pandemic has affected everyone and local news organisations have been at the forefront in helping their communities navigate COVID. At the Google News Initiative, we are trying to play our part with this funding and other initiatives as we all work towards the common goal of a sustainable, innovative and diverse news ecosystem globally.”

The full list of South African publications is:

  • Cape Times
  • Cosmo City Chronicle
  • Daily Dispatch
  • Daily News
  • Daily Voice
  • George Herald, Knysna Plett Herald, Oudtshoorn Courant, Mossel Bay Advertiser, Suid Kaap Forum
  • Isolezwe
  • Klankkoerant
  • Mail and Guardian
  • Mapepeza Community Newspaper
  • Mukurukuru Media
  • Post
  • Pretoria News
  • Seipone Madireng
  • Sekhukhune Times
  • Soweto Sunrise News
  • Sunday Tribune
  • The Herald and Weekend Post
  • The Mercury
  • The Olifants News
  • The Saturday Star
  • The Star
  • Township News
  • Voice of the Cape radio
  • Wits Vuvuzela
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