Local News Lab at Brown Institute awarded Knight Foundation grant for AI initiatives

The Brown Institute’s Local News Lab joins three other recipients in a collaborative effort to use AI to help local newsrooms.

The Local News Lab at the Brown Institute for Media Innovation is thrilled to announce that we have been awarded a $500,000 grant over two years from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation as part of a $3 million initiative supporting applications of artificial intelligence to support the sustainability of local news organizations. We are grateful to Knight for supporting our efforts and we are so excited to collaborate with the other recipients of this initiative: The Associated Press, with which Brown has previously worked on prototyping a tool to help automate some of the repetitive tasks involved in covering Long Island school board elections — from voter guides to “night of” results; the NYC Media Lab will be a huge complement to our work and will bring their convening power as we seek to help create community around the work; and new to our sphere, Partnership on AI will be providing research into the ethical considerations of AI and how it can be used across the entire news ecosystem. If you work at a local or community-based newsroom and this sounds interesting to you, please fill in this form to let us know.

Our role in this collaborative effort has three main pillars: to devise and deploy experiments to test new data- and AI-informed approaches that enhance reader revenue; to accelerate development and distribution of open-source software projects that automate time-intensive decisions and often manual implementation of subscription strategies; and to build community by assembling working groups, documenting the team’s learnings, and establishing a platform where news organizations can share and build on each other’s experiences testing business strategies.

National newsrooms, with their sizable audiences and engineering resources, are applying AI to increase reader revenue. For example, The New York Times produces personalized newsletters, the Washington Post detects evergreen articles that can be reshared, and BuzzFeed automates their social publishing process — all contributing towards higher engagement, subscriptions, or donations. In contrast, local newsrooms often lack the data readiness and staff to implement and iterate on such strategies. This initiative will allow us to create a sustainable environment for ongoing testing — incubating a culture of experimentation among local newsrooms, providing user-friendly open-source tools, and “scaling up” local knowledge in ways that previously only large newsrooms could achieve.

We can’t wait to begin collaborating with our partners and would love to hear from anyone who works at a local or community-based newsroom and is looking to optimize their reader revenue strategies and learn more about the intersection of AI, editorial and revenue. We want to help, so if you’re interested in working with us, please fill in this form and let us know who you are and why you’re interested in the project.