Facebook and the DMZ announce winners of Digital News Innovation Challenge


Facebook, the DMZ, and the Ryerson University School of Journalism have announced the winners of its Digital News Innovation Challenge.

“The startups in the Digital News Innovation Challenge offer a wide range of solutions from AI-content analytics for publishers to platforms supporting local news and on-the-ground reporting, which will create positive change within the journalism landscape,” said Abdullah Snobar, executive director of the DMZ. “We’re thrilled to kickoff the program with some key mentors that will be working with these entrepreneurs firsthand to accelerate their innovative businesses.”

Announced in November 2017, the Challenge provides five startups with $100,000 in non-dilutive seed funding and $50,000 in Facebook marketing budget, which will be broken up in increments. The program will culminate in a demo day where each startup will present their company to a panel of judges and industry leaders.

“It’s evident through the five startups chosen for the Digital News Innovation Challenge that there is exciting work being done by Canadian entrepreneurs to bring innovation to the news ecosystem,” said Kevin Chan, head of public policy at Facebook Canada. “Facebook is honoured to support this distinguished group of startups and we can’t wait to help them develop their ideas over the next five months.”

The five startups include:

  • Trebble: An online platform working to make easier for media outlets, organizations, or individuals to create and distribute their own interactive newscast on voice-activated speakers like Google Home and Amazon Echo
  • Ground: Promises to deliver verified, unbiased, full-coverage news combining social media, reporting from news publishers, and verification from citizen journalists. Ground’s mobile and web app has 500,000 registered users and has been used over 3 million times in 180 countries to report from the location of Hurricane Harvey, Syrian War and the Korean Olympics.
  • The Gist: A sports news outlet targeted to women. Its founding team — Ellen Hyslop, Jacie deHoop, and Rosalyn McLarty — launched the program after finding that women are left out of boardroom conversations or social gatherings because they “didn’t watch the game last night.” The Gist provides curated sports content through a woman’s voice, straight to the reader’s inbox or Instagram feed.
  • Readefined: Provides content analytics for online publishers. The company’s technology includes a piece of lightweight code that anyone can easily install on their site, which can tell if visitors are really paying attention, how intensely, and likely why.
  • The Sprawl: Pop-up journalism targeting the Calgary community, it’s designed to be set up and taken down and set up again to cover specific things.

“We’re genuinely excited about the mix of approaches and experiences the teams are bringing to the DNIC,” said Asmaa Malik, Innovation Lead and graduate program director at the Ryerson School of Journalism. “They’re tackling some of the most pressing challenges facing journalism in Canada: amplifying the reach and power of local news and understanding how deeply people engage with news, as well looking ahead to explore how emerging technologies can connect new audiences.”

Jessica Galang

Jessica Galang

Freelance tech writer. Former BetaKit News Editor.

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