Building innovation culture through the Google News Initiative Design Accelerator 2019

It's all about new business models, products, and cultural practices

Media needs to stop thinking about writing content, and start thinking about delivering products. Products are most valuable when they respond to the audience’s needs. That process creates better value for readers and stakeholders. This is where you come in.

Together with the Google News Initiative and Echos, we’re rolling out a program to help newsrooms deliver products that address specific audience needs to help build a stronger media business. We can get you there through a design thinking approach, which looks at solving business problems creatively, while reducing the risks of experimentation.

Design thinking is about putting your audience first, and figuring out the problems they need solved on a regular basis, and then creating products that do that for them.

We’ve seen this work across newsrooms, as well as other industries. We’d like to help you implement it in your organization.

What you can expect to take away from this program:

  • Build a user-centric mindset for your organization
  • Apply design thinking to your real and urgent business problems
  • Learn how to identify new audiences
  • Plan, prototype, and test new products with your customers
  • Become more collaborative in finding innovative solutions
  • Learn a suite of new tools to help you thrive and grow your business in Asia and overseas

Applications are now closed. The deadline to submit was September 9, 2019.

We invited applications from news organizations across the Asia Pacific to participate in this program. A panel of experts from Google and the news industry are reviewing the submissions and will select eight partners across the region. 

Watch out for an announcement soon.

Please reach out to if you have any questions.

The program

The cost of training will be covered by the program and will be hosted at the selected news organization’s site.

We are looking to launch end-September and will work with the selected news org on dates. We want to complete the training this year.

The program covers:

  1. Design and innovation maturity assessment (pre-work online)
  2. Design thinking for the news industry (3-day training)
  3. Design sprint (5-day project)
  4. Facilitation and project management (2-day training or online. Optional)
  5. Post-program assessment & optional mentorship support


1. Commitment

  • Get executive buy-in for training
  • Make sure you can rally both people and technology in your organization to dedicate to the project
  • We recommend getting participation across product, editorial, business, ads, marketing, operations and any other team you think is necessary in order to help develop a 360 degree innovation plan, across different teams and functions of the organization

2. Desire to change

  • Have a challenge or need that can be developed in the program
  • Dedicate a team and have the ability (technical infrastructure and resources) to implement solutions and recommendations
  • Have executive buy-in to test prototypes developed

3. Share lessons

  • Be open to participate in any Google-led opportunities to share the lessons from this program with the wider industry
  • Please note this does not include any partner specific information


Why should I join this program?

You should do this because you want to build a stronger media business that allows you to create better value for readers, stakeholders, and your newsroom. The program is aimed at bringing design thinking expertise to you so that you can improve your business.

Expert design thinking facilitators from Echos will work directly with your news organization onsite. The program will help you build a customized prototype for new business models, products, and organizational structures to enable data, efficient editorial and management workflows.

Why is Google doing this?

The Google News Initiative is Google’s effort to work with the news industry to help journalism thrive in the digital age. GNI works with news partners on products to meet the needs of news organizations and their digital businesses, build partnerships to solve important business and industry-wide challenges, and supports programs to drive innovation across the news industry.

Is there grant funding to help us roll this out internally?

No. This is a training and product development program funded by Google.

Do I need to take time away from my day job to do this?

Yes. This program is intense, and we think it deserves your undivided attention. If this is not possible, let’s talk and see if we can customize this for your organization.

How many days do we have to commit to doing this?

8 days. We can add 2 additional days if you want project development training as well.

Is the instruction in English?

Yes, primarily. But if there’s a need for other languages, please let us know and we’ll figure something out. We may be able to bring in translators.

Do we have to travel for this?

No. We’ll hold these sessions in your office — if you’ll have us! If space is limited, we’re happy to work out of a co-working space. You just need to show up and work with us.

How will you assess our news organization’s ability to execute project?

The program will take you through the processes, milestones, and success metrics for your media business. They include CEO/management buy-in, your commitment for the entirety of the program, and your willingness to share learnings and best practices across the media ecosystem.

How do you plan to share the lessons of this project?

We’ll be capturing and publishing this accelerator as a case study. The goal is to make these learnings and knowledge accessible to the industry and ecosystem so we all grow together.

Who owns the intellectual property associated with this project?

This is about you, not us. We’re here to help you take your ideas forward. So that IP is yours.

What happens at the end of the project?

We’d love to see you implement what you’ve learned in this program and we’ll be available to support you remotely.

A typical accelerator will take an equity stake in the project. Will you?

No. This is a training and product development project, not an investment.

Who should we contact if we have questions?

Sheena Bhalla runs this program at the Google News Initiative. You can reach her at

Co-Founder, Splice Media. Supporting media startups in Asia. Follow Alan Soon on Twitter.

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