• 19 grants awarded to test innovations for better financial sustainability and engagement of audiences in public interest news across England.
  • Work still be done to ensure there is equal access to high quality news across England, particularly in the North.

Nesta, the global innovation foundation, today announces the innovative ideas that will receive funding through the Future News Pilot Fund. The fund, run by Nesta and funded by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), is a direct recommendation from the Cairncross Review. The Review aimed to give tangible responses to the challenges in the declining public interest news sector.

The pilot fund received 178 applications from a diverse range of organisations, from local and national newsrooms to technology startups. The programme, which begins today, will see the winners of this round test and prototype a variety of ideas over the coming five months, including:

  • Axate who are supporting local publications to become financially sustainable using their digital wallet;
  • Manchester Meteor taking their news hubs to local people to understand what’s important to them, with a particular focus on disadvantaged groups;
  • And Tortoise Local experimenting with opening up their newsroom in Grimsby and Plymouth.

However, gaps still remain across the country. Previously released Nesta research found that communities that tend to have higher levels of unemployment and lower levels of education are particularly affected by a decline in journalistic activity and this can often play out in a North/South divide. It’s important that any future plans recognise where these communities are and provide additional support or resources to them.

Nesta will be sharing lessons learned from the fund to help government and the wider media sector find pathways to a future where everyone across the country has equal and high-quality access to public interest news.

Valerie Mocker, Director of the Future News Fund Pilot Fund at Nesta, said:

“Public interest news is such a vital part of our democratic immune system, so it’s important we ensure it is fit for the future and for everyone. The innovators we are funding are trying to transform the system, challenging how we engage audiences in the news process and trying out new models for financial sustainability.

“We are excited to work closely with the innovators to develop their ideas and importantly, to share these learnings with the wider news sector. This pilot is only a first step but an important one towards reviving public interest news for everyone across the country.”

Paul Miller, Managing Partner and CEO of Bethnal Green Ventures , said:

“We’re excited to kick off the programme today and support the nine ventures over the coming months. Now more than ever we need new approaches to public interest news and find sustainable models for journalism in the UK.”

The projects Nesta will be supporting are:

#ThisMuchIKnow (working outside London)

  • #ThisMuchIKnow is a news community that encourages more knowledgeable conversations about news. They will be working on growing their audiences outside of London.

Axate ​(working in the North West and South)

  • Axate allow users to make casual payments for premium products without the commitment of a subscription. This project will support local news organisations to become more financially sustainable using a 90 day programme to help them to build a business model using the Axate payment wallet.

Black Ballad (working in Birmingham)

  • Black Ballad elevate the voices of Black British women through original and engaging news. They want to launch their reporting with engagement and research activities in regional hubs, including Birmingham.

Bristol Cable (working in Bristol)

  • Bristol Cable will work with people from disadvantaged and minority ethnic communities to understand the barriers they face when accessing news and opportunities for them to be involved in shaping their content. They are also working to design an app which will allow community members to feed stories into local news production.

Entale (working at the national level)

  • Entale will use the funding to incorporate public interest news publishers into their podcast platform and work to develop different payment mechanisms.

Glimpse Protocol (working at the national level)

  • Glimpse is developing new technology to boost revenue for advertisers and publishers through personalised advertising while keeping user data private.

Hashtag Our Stories (working in Birmingham)

  • Hashtag Our Stories is creating journalism video authoring tools and training marginalized communities to use them; curating professional quality user-generated stories.

Manchester Meteor (working in Manchester)

  • The Meteor will work in community hubs in Manchester to understand people’s interests so they can better report on stories of interest to them in an accessible way.

Media Trust (working at the national level)

  • Media Trust will partner with the BBC to increase the skill and pool of disabled people who can contribute to public interest news.

mySociety (working at the national level)

  • mySociety is developing the ability for members of the public to voluntarily collaborate on batch Freedom of Information requests.

New Internationalist (working across regional hubs)

  • New Internationalist will be working to expand their pay it forward scheme for membership and testing new ways to involve the public in shaping editorial content of the magazine.

openDemocracy (working in Manchester)

  • openDemocracy will build and test a prototype an accessible online register of member interests for local authorities (and similar entities) for use by local news providers.

Our Economy (working in Birmingham)

  • Our Economy will support journalists communicate economic issues in plain language, linked to everyday experiences, to increase engagement of more people in public interest news.

PressPad (working at the national level)

  • PressPad matches young people who have landed internships with free accommodation hosted by media professionals and they will be working with Diversity and Inclusion specialists to develop a bursary scheme to diversify the sector.

Shout Out UK (working in regional hubs)

  • Shout Out will design and deliver a six-week media literacy programme for young people in areas where election turnout has been the lowest.

Tortoise Local (working in Grimsby and Plymouth)

  • Tortoise Local will be testing a new engagement model in Grimsby and Plymouth to raise interest and engagement in public interest news.

WT Social (working at the national level)

  • WT Social is an innovative social media platform for news with a hybrid model of community members and journalists who curate news collaboratively. They will use the funding to support journalists and underserved communities to work collaboratively on public interest news.

There are two organisations still in grant negotiations and they will be announced in due course.


For further information on analysis or research and any other press enquiries, please contact - Wallis Grant, [email protected] - 0207 438 2581 / 07557 162 651

Nesta_Press [email protected]

Definition of Public Interest News

In this instance, Nesta defines public interest news as news that covers facts and information to help hold the powerful and elected to account and to allow communities to campaign for the issues that matter to them.

About the Future News Pilot Fund

Following a recommendation in the Cairncross Review, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) commissioned Nesta to run a £2 million fund to help prototype new ideas that could reimagine engagement with audiences and test new approaches to financial sustainability for the sector. The fund will provide grants between £20,000 to £100,000 until June 2020 with grantees split into two tracks; one for idea prototyping run by Nesta and one for accelerating commercial businesses run by Bethnal Green Ventures.

About Nesta

Nesta is a global innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better.

Over 20 years we’ve been tackling the big challenges facing society through research, evidence and policy, practical programmes, making grants and investments, and running experiments. We use these methods to make positive change happen where it matters to everyone, from the frontiers of personalised healthcare to stretched public services and a fast-changing jobs market.

Nesta is based in the UK and supported by a financial endowment. We work with partners around the globe to bring bold ideas to life to change the world for good.

About Bethnal Green Ventures

Bethnal Green Ventures (BGV) is Europe’s leading early stage VC in tech for good.

BGV invests in ambitious teams using technology to tackle pressing social and environmental challenges, helping them launch and scale their businesses through their flagship Tech for Good programme and providing follow-on funding.

Since 2012, BGV invested in over 120 businesses, of which more than half are still active, successfully blending purpose with profit, tackling 13 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Bethnal Green Ventures is a certified BCorp based in London, fueling the maturing movement of Tech for Good.