The Google News Initiative Innovation Challenges winners are set to launch a variety of new ideas the industry can learn from and their companies can benefit from.

In total, 87 projects were awarded in the first GNI Innovation Challenges in Asia-Pacific, North America and Latin America. Google said the funding will enable individuals and companies to “develop sustainable business models by diversifying revenue streams and/or increasing audience engagement.”

GateHouse Media (which became Gannett shortly after the announcement) was a winner and one of their projects will look at how to create great audio content and monetize it.

Here’s a look at the summary and challenge of that project:

Summary: Our project addresses the three major issues facing local newsrooms looking to publish great audio: collection, distribution and monetization. Our toolkit includes a reporter-friendly interface that demystifies when, where and how to collect audio. It allows for quick uploading to a CMS, where the audio is tagged and conditioned to maximize discoverability and make embedding easy.

Solution: Knowing where and when to collect audio is a significant challenge for local newsrooms. Our project creates a front-end, reporter-facing interface that guides the user through the audio collection process and sends to a CMS. Most audio collected today does not include metadata, making it difficult to organize and distribute. Our system will allow for the easy addition of tags and will use semantic analysis to create rich metadata. Monetization is another significant challenge. Local businesses have a high barrier to entry for audio — our system pairs local ads with national programmatic and fills dynamically to meet impression counts.

We spoke with Rob Connelly, director of digital audio at Gannett, to learn from about this project.

First, can you give us an overview of the project?

This project was funded by the Google News Initiative to build a modular mobile app designed to guide reporters in the field through the process of gathering and distributing audio for their stories. The app will have simple tools to relay assignments and record interviews using a reporter’s phone. The app will then auto-level, condition and tag the audio clip before uploading that clip to a centralized content management system. It will automatically make it available for publication and to share socially.

What is Gannett currently doing with audio?

We pursue a multi-faceted, comprehensive audio strategy which includes on-demand, podcasts and streaming audio. We operate audio almost like its own business. There are 140 on-demand and podcast programs responsible for 8.6 million downloads along with two 24-hour streaming radio stations, a Florida Streaming Radio News Network and a series of  pop-up radio stations around large national events in local markets.

Why does Gannett view audio as such a big opportunity?

Audio is a low-cost, high-quality way to reach and further engage the massive digital audience the newspaper industry enjoys. Newspaper websites are still very much the most trafficked in most of their respective communities. Audio is a diverse, enriching, unbiased addition to storytelling which simultaneously creates a separate, self-contained revenue stream.

What tech challenges are you trying to solve?

Simply making the gathering of audio one-touch. It needs to be easy, using a frictionless system and a device every reporter understands — their phone. Asking reporters unfamiliar with handheld MP3s recorders to learn and keep track of more equipment at scale was a non-starter.  Also, creating an app presents huge cost savings. Once built, it can easily be installed on every reporter’s phone and distributed to other news organizations around the world.

What’s the monetization strategy with this channel and specific project?

All of the audio gathered using the new app will aggregate into our From the Newsroom, on-demand audio initiative which is set up for multiple newsrooms. That audio is aggregated nationally through our content management system and automatically wired to a full suite of supply-side platform tools provided by our partners at Triton Digital. We can then package the audio for sale to demand-side platforms or via direct sale based on multiple targeting factors including subject or geography for example.

Are there any KPIs you will be measuring with this initiative?

Newsroom participation, total downloads per newsroom, and gross revenue.

How will you view this project as a success?

We think a 20 percent participation rate among our newsrooms in the first year would be reasonable, but it should ramp quickly after that. We will look for 40 percent and then 80 percent in year two and three. Further, this app is modular and will be marketed as a tool to newsrooms around the world that could tie it to their own audio CMS. It would be wonderful to have others adopt this tool to easily add audio to digital news products across the globe.