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Hong Kong Free Press has successfully applied for a US$78,400 (HK$615,440) Google GNI Innovation Challenge grant to create an open source funding platform for small newsrooms focussed on nurturing reader membership.

HKFP’s Open Membership Portal for Small Newsrooms platform will be developed by the HKFP team and freelancers over coming months. News startups will be able to deploy the fundraising micro-site easily to bypass, or reduce their reliance upon, expensive third-party crowdfunding sites, and flawed fundraising plug-ins.

Google news initiative hong kong free press

According to the 2018 Reuters Initiative Digital News Report, regular, monthly support from readers has proven to be the best hope for generating a sustainable income. However, accessible, functional and affordable tools and expertise are rarely available to small news outfits. 

HKFP Editor-in-chief Tom Grundy said the team was proud to accept support from the APAC Innovation Challenge.

“Over the past four years, we have learnt many lessons when it comes to fundraising. With this project, we hope to give something back and empower other small news startups to independently fundraise without third-party websites, fees or plugins,” he said.

“Asia-Pacific newsrooms are often faced with political, as well as commercial pressures. And we understand that small outlets rarely have developers or tech experts on board. With this new, open source fundraising platform, we hope to help news start-ups to safeguard their independence and press freedom, while enabling them to focus their resources on reporting.”

HKFP is teaming up with Fallout Media and Diffractive for the project.

hong kong free press team
Senior Reporter Holmes Chan, Reporter Jennifer Creery, Editor-in-chief Tom Grundy, Guest Editor Tim Hamlett & Editorial Director Kris Cheng.

Designed specifically for media outlets, HKFP’s solution will finally allow newsrooms to take control of their fundraising and manage their relationships with supporters.

Our Open Membership Portal for Small Newsrooms will be fully maintained, with a training pack, documentation and case studies. Supporters of news media will be able to select different commitment levels and manage their donations through card payments or PayPal. Customisable and secure, the portal is designed to remove barriers to regular donations for both newsrooms and readers.

The Google News Initiative (GNI) is Google’s international effort to help journalism thrive in the digital age. Through regional funding, the GNI Innovation Challenges seek to empower news innovators to enact new thinking in online journalism and develop new publishing models. Knowledge generated from the projects will be shared with the wider industry.

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Editor’s note: Whilst our Google grant will help build infrastructure for independent media outlets, it cannot be used for our everyday running costs. We invite readers to support our 2019 Funding Drive to ensure our immediate future and help us safeguard press freedom in Hong Kong.

Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.