Media, Information and Communication Contests: An Analysis

Four years ago, as the media industry teetered, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation began to explore new ways to advance quality journalism in the digital age. We asked: what innovations will inform 21st century communities the way the Knight brothers’ newspapers did in the 20th?

To help find them, we created the Knight News Challenge – a five‐year, $25 million contest seeking fresh ideas for using digital technology to inform geographic communities. We believed that living through a time of such enormous change, the most effective thing we can do as a foundation is to experiment and learn.

This study forwards that mission. After three rounds of the Knight News Challenge, we took a step back to examine how we could improve the contest. We consulted past challenge judges, entrepreneurs and technologists. We also explored lessons from the broader field. In general, contests are increasingly being used as a tool to solve society’s most entrenched problems. In the area of news and information alone, the number of contests has doubled since we first launched the challenge in 2006.

We hope that you will find the information contained in this report as beneficial as we have. We hope it will be a useful resource for organizations that are designing and implementing contests to spur innovation, as well as for nonprofits and individuals looking for funding opportunities in the area of media, information and communication.

Mayur Patel
Director of Strategic Assessment & Impact, Knight Foundation

Gary Kebbel
Journalism Program Director, Knight Foundation