Google provides emergency grants to 25 South African publications

newspaper media publications

After announcing the global Google News Initiative Journalism Emergency Relief Fund (JERF) earlier this year, Google South Africa has detailed the 25 local publications that will receive funding.

Publishing globally has taken a hit, while South African publications have announced multiple layoffs and closures.

At the beginning of July, Media24 announced plans for restructuring that would close multiple publications and affect over 500 staff members.

Other companies have also announced retrenchment plans, including Primedia Broadcasting.

“The pandemic has affected everyone and local news organisations have been at the forefront in helping their communities navigate COVID. At the Google News Initiative, we are trying to play our part with this funding and other initiatives as we all work towards the common goal of a sustainable, innovative, and diverse news ecosystem globally,” Ludovic Blecher, Head of Google News Initiative Innovation said in a statement.

South African publications receiving funding

The initiative has seen JERF provide $39.5-million in grants to publishers across the world.

While Google didn’t detail how much was spent in Africa, it has provided a full list of publications that will receive grants from the company.

The 25 publications receiving funding from Google include:

  • Cape Times
  • Cosmo City Chronicle
  • Daily Dispatch
  • Daily News
  • George Herald, Knysna Plett Herald, Oudtshoorn Courant, Mossel Bay Advertiser, Suid Kaap Forum
  • Isolezwe
  • Daily Voice
  • Klankkoerant
  • Mail and Guardian
  • Mapepeza Community Newspaper
  • Mukurukuru Media
  • Post
  • Pretoria News
  • Seipone Madireng
  • Sekhukhune Times
  • Soweto Sunrise News
  • Sunday Tribune
  • The Herald and Weekend Post
  • The Mercury
  • The Olifants News
  • The Saturday Star
  • The Star
  • Township News
  • Voice of the Cape radio
  • Wits Vuvuzela

The publications range a number of different media companies, including Independent Media, Tiso Blackstar Group, and Arena Holdings.

However, a few smaller publications and outlets also feature among the grant recipients.

These include community and student publications, as well as outlets that publish news in Zulu and Afrikaans. For example, Wits Journalism’s student publication Wits Vuvuzela will receive funding.

Isolezwe, a Zulu newspaper published in Durban, is also a grant recipient.

The list also includes smaller community radio stations, such as the Voice of the Cape.

Why the grants are needed

While media publications have always been able to operate under lockdown, advertiser spend has plunged during the pandemic. Google notes that many publications are completely dependent on advertising revenue.

According to an optional reader revenue survey GNI conducted, half of the grant recipients said that advertising was their sole source of revenue.

Meanwhile, fewer than 30% of respondents used some form of a paywall. Fewer than 18% rely on community contributions or memberships, Google notes.

The grants will give publications a chance to diversify their revenue and apply new business models.

Feature image: AbsolutVision on Unsplash 

Megan Ellis


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