February 26, 2021



MediaNews Group wins Google funding for ‘The Access Project’

MediaNews Group has won funding from the Google News Initiative to expand news access to students, library patrons and low-income groups that can’t afford to pay for a full-price digital subscription.

It’s the second year running that the owner of The Mercury News, East Bay Times, The Orange County Register, The Denver Post and more than 50 other local newspapers has received backing from the initiative meant to help journalism thrive in the digital age.

Last year, a project to develop a premium subscription tier with ad-free website access, location-aware news recommendations, VIP treatment at events and other perks got Google support at the company’s Bay Area News Group, which includes The Mercury News and East Bay Times.

After launching at The Mercury News in January, thousands of subscribers now enjoy ad-free access across 22 local news outlets, including St. Paul Pioneer Press and Boston Herald.

The new program is meant to ensure that groups aren’t left behind in an emerging digital news ecosystem that relies on readers paying for unlimited access.

“The goal of ‘The Access Project’ is to get credible, objective, fact-based journalism to the broadest possible audience with a focus on younger readers or readers in at-risk communities that might not otherwise be exposed to the news and information we provide, ”said Frank Pine, executive editor for the Bay Area and Southern California news groups.

“This project will enhance our digital subscription infrastructure, allowing us to offer a token-based subscription model that supports institutional or enterprise subscriptions that can be accessed from anywhere,” Pine said. “It will also make it possible for us to offer broad-based student discounts and the opportunity for underwriting access for disadvantaged populations or groups. We’re grateful to have Google’s support. ”

The multi-phase project involves first offering discounts to students who are verified and enrolled at college. The second phase envisions offering the ability for library patrons and grade school students to obtain access after logging into a central portal with their existing credentials.

A final phase aims to create a mechanism whereby philanthropists and other groups can sponsor access for others.

The entire project is estimated to cost around $ 300,000, with Google funding about two-thirds of the expense.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Google kicked off its Google News Initiative in March 2018, committing to spend $ 300 million globally over three years. As part of it, Google created a two-year, $ 30 million program called GNI Innovation Challenges.

The second round of the North American version focuses around the theme “Sustainability through Diversity” with an aim to “promote the creation of sustainable models for local media that address diverse audiences and recognize that as an opportunity for driving engagement and revenue.”