News for Digital Journalists

Posts tagged with: News Challenge

June 21, 2010

BookBrewer: from blogs to e-books

Imagine instantly converting your existing blog or hyperlocal content into e-books, earning $5 a pop on major online book stores? New software in development hopes to help you do just that.

The new BookBrewer initiative is one element of a for-profit FeedBrewer effort launched this spring by Dan Pacheco, the former Bakersfield Californian digital media executive. Pacheco was also behind the Printcasting project, which won a John L. and James S. Knight Foundation News Challenge grant of more than $800,000 in 2008 to develop software that turns web content in niche print publications.

I had a chance to experiment with a conceptual prototype of BookBrewer. It appears to require little, if any, technical or design skill as it walks users through a few simple steps to generate the end product, which the developer said should take just five minutes.

In an e-mail, Pacheco added that unlike Printcasting (which was free) BookBrewer will probably charge a $70 setup fee, with subsequent revenues coming from money made by book sales. An e-book author could expect to make around $5 per sale on a $9.99 cover price, with about $3 going to a book seller, and $2 to BookBrewer, Pacheco added.

UPDATE: Pacheco says he hopes BookBrewer will have software in testing phase in 30 days and launched in 60 days.

Meanwhile, Printcasting earlier this month released its first open-source version of the Drupal-based Printcasting code, based on Drupal 5 (kinks are still being worked out on a Drupal 6 version).

UPDATE: FeedBrewer says it plans to donate 6 percent of its corporate stock to a brand new Knight Media Innovation Fund; Pacheco explains why.

November 11, 2010

Knight News Challenge: Deadline is Dec. 1

If you’re planning to enter this year’s Knight News Challenge, you may have a little more time than you thought…

Earlier information about this contest indicated a deadline of Nov. 30. However, the Knight Foundation has clarified that the deadline is in fact Dec. 1, 2010. (Apply now)

Also, the Knight News Challenge blog has been publishing lots of useful tips for entrants—most recently on how to build your project’s budget and the basic breakdown of a successful entry.

June 24, 2011

Data Journalism a focal point for latest Knight News Challenge

The Knight News Challenge used its its fifth and final year of grants June 22 to put down a marker—the contest is betting big money on building tools to help make sense of data for journalists.

The Associated Press Overview project, for instance, scored a $475,000 grant to develop ways to scour large databases in order to visualize data and find stories (here’s more on it from AP and Neiman Lab blog). A Chicago Tribune effort dubbed Panda will get $150,000 to build a set of open-source, web-based tools to make it easier for journalists to use and analyze data.

Commentators on Twitter and in blogs immediately noted this year’s heavy focus on data. Matthew Ingram wrote in GigaOm and the New York Times, for example: “There’s a theme running through most of the winners: namely, data as journalism.” The Poynter Institute’s Steve Myers noted almost a third of this year’s $4.7 million in grants is meant “to help journalists and the public organize and analyze data and documents. In different ways, several of these projects seek to solve the persistent challenges of journalists working on investigative and daily stories: how to make sense of vast amounts of data and find the stories within.”

Knight noted the nod to data in announcing this year’s winners, writing that one set of experiments in the latest round would “[h]elp newsrooms organize and visualize large data sets so that they can find relationships and stories they might not have imagined.”  The contest’s overseer and Knight Director of New Media John Bracken blogged that one emphasis was: “The need to make better sense of the stream. News consumers and journalists alike need help making sense of the streams of data now available to us.”

Among the other winners that focused on data journalism are:

  • DocumentCloud, which had already garnered a 2009 News Challenge award to develop document-based reporting software, got another $320,000 for an annotation tool to help crowdsource large sets of documents.
  • ScraperWiki won $280,000 to create a “data on demand” feature to help journalists request and manage data sets, as an add-on to existing services that help journalists and others create data “scrapers” to collect, store and publish public data. The organization will also host “journalism data camps” in 12 U.S. states.
  • OpenBlock Rural gets $275,000 to work with local governments and community papers in North Carolina to aggregate and publish government data.
  • Ushahidi will see $250,000 to develop SwiftRiver, a platform for evaluating crowdsourced information in an unfolding news environment.
  • Spending Stories gets $250,000 to contextualize news by tying it to the data on which it’s based, using automated analysis and user verification.

The latest grants, which this year included an additional $1 million in funding from Google, are the last in a series of 76 projects funded to a tune of $27 million since the first were issued in 2007 [Full Disclosure: This author, with fellow KDMC blogger and colleague Amy Gahran, was a previous winner].

The closing of this stage of the News Challenge prompted some analysis from Knight (including this graphic representation) and from other industry observers on the program’s impact. Neiman Lab’s Joshua Benton blogged: “The entrepreneurial spirit that the News Challenge tried to bring to journalism is far further along, and more players—nonprofits, tech companies, venture capitalists, lean startups, and even those old warhorses in the traditional media—are more willing to try new strategies, throw out old workflows, and build new products and tools.” Poynter Institute’s Jeff Sonderman wrote how News challenge “pushed new approaches for journalism: Crowdfunding, the hacker-journalist, data as news and citizen journalism.”

Knight has suggested the program will reemerge in a new form and is openly seeking input on the News Challenge’s future direction. Observers on hand for the latest round of winners tweeted news, for instance, that the program might speed up its funding cycle by going quarterly instead of annual, and might also earmark a portion for a venture fund.

Check out a full list of this year’s grantees.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

April 06, 2012 Open source software from Knight News Challenge winners

Over the last several years, the News Challenge projects funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation have produced open source software that journalists, news outlets and anyone can put to use. These tools are now easy to find, all in one place… showcases software such as Ushahidi (crowdmapping), DocumentCloud (index, share, annotate and publish source documents), Panda (data analysis) and more. You can learn how this software is being used. Also, you can download the source code to customize, improve, or expand upon this software.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

June 20, 2012

Knight announces six “networks” News Challenge Winners

This week the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced the six winners of the first 2012 round of the Knight News Challenge. These projects leverage existing networks to create new ways to inform and engage communities…

The winners are:

  •, which aggregates live mobile video streams of breaking news events (via networks such as Ustream and TweetCaster) into an easily searchable world map.
  • After a tornado destroyed their Massachusetts home, two sisters created an online organizing platform that helps disaster-stricken communities quickly launch recovery efforts. In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, enables communities to launch a website to ensure that heightened news attention translates into donations, volunteers and more.
  • A dashboard that tracks stories through social networks and across multiple news sites, to help newsrooms monitor what is resonating with readers and make smarter editorial decisions.
  • Watchup. This iPad app makes it easier and faster to find high-quality news videos. It also offers curated playlists which aggregates news reports into a simple interface.
  • Behavio. An open-source platform that turns phones into smart sensors of people’s real-world behavior, from how they use their phones to how they communicate. Funding will help programmers build apps with smarter sensors, create tools for journalists to uncover trends in community data, and launch a mobile application to help individuals explore data about their lives.
  • Tor Project. This longstanding project will leverage its vast network of volunteers to create a toolkit to help reporters communicate more safely with sources by using Tor’s secure Web browser, an anonymous upload utility, and more.

The deadline for applications for this year’s second News Challenge round (focused on Data) is tomorrow, June 21, noon EDT. Learn more and apply now.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

August 30, 2012

Knight News Challenge on Mobile: applications now open

Applications are now open for the third phase of this year’s Knight News Challenge, which focuses on mobile technology…

As with previous phases, the Knight News Challenge on Mobile is a fairly open-ended proposition. Participants must answer eight questions to explain their “idea on using mobile to improve news, information, democracy and communities, and your ability to execute on it.”

This could conceivably span projects that use text messaging, websites or web apps optimized for mobile users, mobile-friendly crowdsourcing, “native” apps tailored for specific mobile operating systems or devices, geolocation, mesh networking, and more.

Learn more and enter now.

DEADLINE: Sept. 10, noon EDT

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.