Google investing in grass roots journalism

National news agency SWNS has won funding for a market-leading syndication platform in the first round of grants from Google’s Digital News Initiative (DNI). Google is making a total of £118m (Euro 150m) available in the DNI to support innovation in journalism through technology.

SWNS is the largest independent press agency in the UK. The Bristol-based content provider is among just 17 successful applicants in the UK who have been offered funding by the tech giant.

In February it was announced that 128 applicants had been successful out of 1,200 bids from 30 countries. They will share £21m in the first round of funding.

SWNS has been awarded a six-figure sum to develop a new syndication platform for professional and amateur photographers, journalists and news publishers. The content management system (CMS) promises seamless delivery of news, pictures and video to customers and a better deal for contributors through total transparency, better market reach and faster payments.

This means that anybody can offer up their photos, videos or articles to the national press and track who has used their material and how much they will be paid in real time.

SWNS director Martin Winter said: “We are thrilled that Google has recognised our ambition to change the market through a combination of technology and good old-fashioned journalism.

“Technology presents wonderful opportunities for journalism but it can only go so far. You still need people behind the tech to spot the potential, build stories and sell the product. Our new system brings together the best of both worlds.

“It’s great to see Google investing in grassroots journalism and sharing our vision of a bright future for both the regional and national press in the UK.”

The new platform will be built by Bristol-based digital agency Omni, which has previously built large-scale systems for the NHS and Royal Photographic Society.

Google will begin releasing funds over the next month and SWNS hopes to launch the project onto the market by the summer.

SWNS picture editor Jon Mills said: “We are already fortunate to represent so many skilled and passionate photographers and journalists.

“It is tremendously exciting to be working on this project to bring them – and the wider industry – a better offering than ever before.”

SWNS has grown rapidly in recent years to become the Uk’s biggest independent news provider with more than 150 staff in nine offices from Scotland to Cornwall.

Last year it acquired National News in London, adding to the stable of agencies under its banner which include Talk to the Press in London, Newsteam in Birmingham, Ross Parry in Leeds, Masons in Cambridge and HeMedia, operating out of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.

SWNS is now the biggest independent supplier of news content to the UK national press and syndicates material for most regional publishing groups, including Johnston Press, Local World, Newsquest and the Kent Messenger Group.

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