The Google News Initiative (GNI) Journalism Emergency Relief Fund (JERF) has announced it will be supporting 16 Nigerian publications in financial distress with funding.

Ludovic Blecher, Head of Google News Initiative Innovation, said in a statement that JERF has provided 39.5m US dollars in funding to publishers in 115 countries in the past few months.

JERF which was launched in April,and it is aimed at helping local publishers facing financial hardship as a result of the economic and advertising downturn.

The GNI Head said that the list of Nigerian publishers were Aledah.com, City Mirror News, Daily Nigerian, News Wire NGR, Lagos Post Media, Newsfeed Nigeria, Premium Times.

He said that the others were Sundiata Post, Sunrise Newspaper, Tell Magazine, Daily Times, Daily Report, Eagle Online, The Median, TNG and The Punch (including Saturday Punch, Sunday Punch and Punch Online)

Blecher said the money is being applied in diverse and creative ways from ensuring basic reporting needs, giving emergency stipends to allow reporters cover the crisis, to driving audience engagement and generating subscriptions.

He said that a significant number also said they were prioritising a need for cultural change, including focus on diversity, equity and inclusion and 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.

“The pandemic has affected everyone and local news organisations have been at the forefront in helping their communities navigate COVID-19,’’ Blecher said.

According to him, at the Google News Initiative, we are trying to play our part with this funding and other initiative as we all work towards the common goal of a sustainable, innovative and diverse news ecosystem globally.

He said that, according to an optional reader revenue survey GNI conducted, ‘Advertising continues to be the sole source of revenue for most recipients with 50 per cent claiming to be totally advertising dependent”.

Blecher said that the survey also showed that less than 30 per cent operate some form of paywall while less than 18 per cent rely on community contributions or membership to support their journalism.

He, however, said that the situation was changing with 60 percent of the recipients planning to diversify their revenue streams through developing subscription, membership or contribution models.

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