Pakistan’s fastest-growing digital media start-up, The Current, has won the Google News Initiative (GNI) Innovation Challenge, becoming the only media organisation in the country to have secured the coveted spot and that too within just a year of its launch.

Under the challenge, Google received applications from over 255 news organisations and technology companies from across the Asia Pacific, including media giants like Japan’s Nippon Television Network, out of which 18 were selected to receive $2.3 million in funding.

The first round of the challenge focused on diversifying revenue and saw dozens of examples of creative new approaches. The applicants were asked for proposals to increase reader engagement, which ultimately leads to greater loyalty and willingness to pay for content.


The 255 strong submissions revolved around topics like user-generated content, community management, fact-checking and the use of technologies such as machine learning to tackle business challenges.

As part of the project, The Current will develop a membership model that will be the first of its kind in Pakistan — with three levels of membership provided for its most avid followers. The plan is to provide content and training that members want, and also test a viable alternate stream of revenue for digital news startups.

The challenge had been won by Jang Media Group in Pakistan last year. As part of the project, the media organisation developed state-of-the-art Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR) platforms for digitising its historical news archives. The project was similar in scale and ambition to the New York Times collaboration with Google in transforming its archives.

Here’s what you should know about the selected projects from 2020 and the previous years.