Nesta, the global innovation foundation, today announces the innovative ideas that will receive funding through the Future News Pilot Fund. The fund, run by Nesta and funded by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), is a direct recommendation from the Cairncross Review. The Review aimed to give tangible responses to the challenges in the declining public interest news sector.

The pilot fund received 178 applications from a diverse range of organisations, from local and national newsrooms to technology startups. The programme, which begins today, will see the winners of this round test and prototype a variety of ideas over the coming five months, including:

– Axate who are supporting local publications to become financially sustainable using their digital wallet;

– Manchester Meteor taking their news hubs to local people to understand what’s important to them, with a particular focus on disadvantaged groups;

– And Tortoise experimenting with opening up their newsroom in Grimsby and Plymouth. 

However, gaps still remain across the country. Previously released Nesta research found that communities that tend to have higher levels of unemployment and lower levels of education are particularly affected by a decline in journalistic activity and this can often play out in a North/South divide. It’s important that any future plans recognise where these communities are and provide additional support or resources to them. 

Nesta will be sharing lessons learned from the fund to help government and the wider media sector find pathways to a future where everyone across the country has equal and high-quality access to public interest news.

Valerie Mocker, Director of the Future News Fund Pilot Fund at Nesta, said: 

“Public interest news is such a vital part of our democratic immune system, so it’s important we ensure it is fit for the future and for everyone. The 17 innovators we are funding are trying to transform the system, challenging how we engage audiences in the news process and trying out new models for financial sustainability. 

“We are excited to work closely with the innovators to develop their ideas and importantly, to share these learnings with the wider news sector. This pilot is only a first step but an important one towards reviving public interest news for everyone across the country.”

Paul Miller, Managing Partner and CEO of Bethnal Green Ventures , said:

“We’re excited to kick off the programme today and support the nine ventures over the coming months. Now more than ever we need new approaches to public interest news and find sustainable models for journalism in the UK.” 

The projects Nesta will be supporting are: 

#ThisMuchIKnow (working in Manchester and Birmingham)

– #ThisMuchIKnow is a news community that encourages more knowledgeable conversations about news. They will be working on growing their audiences in Birmingham and Manchester. 

Axate (working in Leeds and two other locations in the South West)

– Axate allow users to make micropayments for news content. They want to support local news organisations to become more financially sustainable using a 90 day programme to help local news organisations to build a business model using the Axate payment wallet.

Black Ballad (working in Birmingham)

– Black Ballad elevate the voices of Black British women through original and engaging news. They want to launch their reporting with engagement and research activities in regional hubs, including Birmingham. 

Bristol Cable (working in Bristol)

– Bristol Cable will work with people from disadvantaged and minority ethnic communities to understand the barriers they face when accessing news and opportunities for them to be involved in shaping their content. They are also working to design an app which will allow community members to feed stories into local news production. 

Entale (working in London and 3 other regional hubs)

– Entale will use the funding to incorporate public interest news publishers into their podcast platform and work to develop different payment mechanisms. 

Glimpse Protocol (working at the national level)

– Glimpse is developing new technology to boost revenue for advertisers and publishers through personalised advertising while keeping user data private. 

Hashtag Our Stories (working in Birmingham)

– Hashtag Our Stories is going to deliver a series of live events and workshops in Birmingham to train marginalised societies to create a mobile journalism app that can change the public discourse around their communities. 

Manchester Meteor (working in Manchester)

– The Meteor will work in community hubs in Manchester to understand people’s interests so they can better report on stories of interest to them in an accessible way. 

Media Trust (working at the national level)

– Media Trust will partner with the BBC to increase the skill and pool of people with disabilities who can contribute to public interest news.

mySociety (working at the national level)

– mySociety is developing the ability for members of the public to voluntarily collaborate on batch Freedom of Information requests. 

New Internationalist (working across regional hubs)

– New Internationalist will be working to expand their pay it forward scheme for membership and testing new ways to involve the public in shaping editorial content of the magazine. 

openDemocracy (working in Manchester)

– openDemocracy will build and test a prototype an accessible online register of member interests for local authorities (and similar entities) for use by local news providers. 

Our Economy (working in Birmingham)

– Our Economy will support journalists communicate economic issues in plain language, linked to everyday experiences, to increase engagement of more people in public interest news.

PressPad (working at the national level)

– PressPad matches young people who have landed internships with free accommodation hosted by media professionals and they will be working with Diversity and Inclusion specialists to develop a bursary scheme to diversify the sector. 

Shout Out UK (working in ten regional hubs)

– Shout Out will design and deliver a six-week media literacy programme for young people in areas where election turnout has been the lowest. 

Tortoise Local (working in Grimsby and Plymouth)

– Tortoise Local will be testing a new engagement model in Grimsby and Plymouth to raise interest and engagement in public interest news. 

WT Social (working at the national level)

– WT Social is an innovative social media platform for news with a hybrid model of community members and journalists who curate news collaboratively. They will use the funding to support journalists and underserved communities to work collaboratively on public interest news. 

There are two organisations still in grant negotiations and they will be announced in due course. 


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