Six innovations that could change the meaning of 'news network'

The Knight Foundation has awarded $1.37 million to six upstarts who have designed tools to help journalists and citizens leverage networks.

If you haven't notice, the news media is in a bit of a flux period -- to put it very kindly. Old school content delivery models are dead or dying, even though many readers still want to crack open a paper each morning (look at the outcry over the New Orleans Times-Picayune's plans to go to a three-day publishing schedule for proof).

To keep pace with changing demands for news form factors, the Knight Foundation is offering a total of $5 million to individuals or groups with the smartest ideas for new ways to package and deliver news. The contest is being held in three rounds, with three themes. The first round of winners, which collected a total of $1.37 million, was announced this week. The theme: using existing networks (such as Ustream or Twitter) to create new ways for informing and engaging communities.

• – An aggregation engine for live mobile video streams of breaking news, using a searchable world map interface.

• – An online organizing platform that helps disaster-stricken communities launch recovery efforts through a website that generates relevant information, donations and volunteers.

• – This was designed to help newsrooms remain competitive by monitoring what is resonating with readers and make smarter editorial decisions about which stories get covered and promoted. It does this by analyzing social networks and competitor sites.

• Watchup – Watchup is an app for the iPad that speeds the search for relevant video content by offering a curated playlist that aggregates news reports into a simple interface.

• Behavio – An open-source platform that will help programmers build apps with smarter sensors, create tools for journalists that uncover trends in community data and launch a mobile application that allows individuals to explore data about their lives.

• Tor Project – This protect journalists and their sources and allow them to communicate more safely by using the organization’s secure Web browser, an anonymous upload utility and other tools. It can be difficult for journalist to communicate safely with sources thanks to threatening (or threatened) government regimes or criminal organizations.

The second round of the contest is focused on data, and the foundation is accepting applications through noon ET June 21. The topic of the third will be announced later this year.

In past years, the Foundation's support has helped launch important new journalism tools, such as DocumentCloud, which helps journalists analyze, annotate and publish original source documents. It's used by more than 200 newsrooms nationwide. And it supported Ushahidi, a crisis mapping tool that helps organize and activate aid in disaster areas.

Image: Flickr/NS Newsflash

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