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We are innovating a sustainable ecosystem for journalism and publishing in a world where authentic and credible news sources are harder to verify.

The importance of credible news organisations have been highlighted by current events shaping our world, like the ongoing impact of COVID-19. To stay relevant news organisations must transform their business models due to shifting audience habits and the spread of misinformation. It is essential that news organisations not only stabilise their businesses but design new futures for their industries. A shift is needed in journalism to ensure that emerging and established news organisations can provide quality journalism now and in the future.

Echos has been partnering with the Google News Initiative since 2019 on the Design Accelerator Program, The Product Labs and the GNI Startups Lab. The GNI Startups Lab is a program to support news organisations at an early stage of development on a path to financial and operational sustainability. The Google News Initiative’s aim is to scale its work with journalists, publishers, and industry leaders to help build a resilient future for news around the globe. Establishing journalistic practices for a more informed world is core to Google’s and Echos’s mission to create more desirable futures. 

Over the course of running the GNI Startups Lab, and design accelerators, we have supported over 55 news organisations across the APAC region, India and Brazil. What did we learn about the future of journalism?

In our experience, the path to creating a sustainable company lies in knowing exactly who the audience is and experimenting with the creation of offerings that are relevant to them. And for any news story to be successful, it must have a dedicated and committed audience to listen, share and engage with the content.

Each start-up learned to uncover and discover what was important to their audience and then learn how to engage them more deeply with their content through a design facilitated approach.


How Design Accelerates Growth

The GNI Startups Lab is a design accelerator program that supports news media start-ups to achieve impact in the high-growth areas of digital ecosystems. The program takes entrepreneurs through 16 weeks of mentorship, training and workshops on audience centricity, digital products, business models, marketing, strategy, growth, community building and fundraising.

The first step for each of the start-ups that went on the accelerator journey started with their audience. The future of journalism and news media companies is tied to the relevance of the content and value proposition they offer to their audience. Media consumers now expect news to help them manage their daily life challenges, make decisions and be entertained. Due to these changes in how information has been consumed over the years, being attentive to new audience habits and behaviours is fundamental for new journalistic initiatives to thrive. And design thinking methods and tools are great facilitators in this process.

With the growth of value-based relationships between consumers and organisations, it is also essential to consider how news can tackle ongoing social issues. Finding and engaging with audiences who identify with these issues is core to building and maintaining an engaged and loyal audience.

One such start-up is Alma Preta, founded in 2015 as a collective of black university students and communicators to address racism in Brazil. Since then, it has gained critical success in the media landscape. Alma Preta wanted to become a national news agency through fundraising to become a financially sustainable organisation. 

In 2020, it expanded its operations and currently has centres in São Paulo, Pernambuco and Bahia. The work carried out at the GNI Startup Lab created a greater focus on anti-racist agendas, a topic of great relevance not only in Brazil but around the world. Although more than 56% of Brazilians identify as black, there is very little representation of black voices and topics in the media. 

Alma Preta fights disinformation by producing anti-racist articles and related subjects critical to moving into a more equitable future. During the accelerator program, two new goals were established: expanding the audience reach and formalising the consulting service performed by Alma Preta. To expand audience reach, existing products were adapted to reflect niche audience concerns in regional areas. 

Alma Preta created a menu of services they could consistently offer to clients to formalise the consulting services. The following services were developed based on an understanding of their potential client’s needs: 

  • Content Production
    • Articles, manuals and booklets 
  • Lectures
    • Advisory for leadership, institutional/structural racism and diversity
  • Mini-courses
    • Anti-racist courses and financial sustainability training for independent media
  • Consulting
    • Advisory and strategy, diversity committees, recruitment and selection criteria

The development of consulting services provided a firm foundation for financial sustainability. They developed a new digital product that significantly increased the number of site visitors and members. Alma Preta is creating a better future through greater awareness of anti-racism by focusing on audiences’ needs, media consumers, and business clients. Learn more about Alma Preta’s work in this case study video.


Audienctric Growth Outcomes

Using a design-centred approach allowed each organisation to benefit from the program by developing a better understanding of their audience, and combining an audience-centric focus with a product-thinking mindset. This helped each of the 55 start-ups with their growth and sustainability. The design accelerator provided the skills needed to incorporate Design Thinking into their strategic planning and product development. They also learned how to conceptualise and experiment with business models with audience-centricity as the guiding principle, acting as the north star.

The start-ups achieved their goals through exposure to different skills, including the mastery of new concepts and an increased understanding of the audiences they serve. The start-ups gained insights by talking to their audiences, learning, and experimenting with new offerings to solve their untapped needs. 

The businesses are now equipped to provide high-quality reporting for local communities, single-topic issues and previously underserved communities across India, Brazil and the APAC region with empathy, collaboration and experimentation at their core.

Learn more about our work with start-ups in India by downloading our full report here. 

Have any questions about how our program can accelerate your future? Get in touch with us; we are always happy to share more insights.


Megan Davis

Originally from Michigan, now living and creating in Melbourne, Megan considers herself a citizen of the world. She has been discovering stories since 2012, specialising in narrative strategy and storytelling for businesses that are daring to create new realities and futures.
She has traveled the world conducting workshops in New York, London, Berlin, and most recently Lisbon at the House of Beautiful Business in 2019 to teach people how to connect with storytelling to deliver strategic business results.
Putting empathy first in business and life, she loves sharing her knowledge by speaking, training, and consulting on projects that are changing the world.

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