Lenfest Local Lab, The Philadelphia Inquirer receive Google GNI Innovation Challenge support to build automated neighborhood newsletters

The Lenfest Institute for Journalism on Friday received $245,000 from the Google News Initiative to support a pilot from The Lenfest Local Lab and The Philadelphia Inquirer to create partially-automated email newsletters serving targeted Philadelphia-area neighborhoods. 

The newsletters will include a mix of editorial content, public data, and other automated information that will empower residents to stay informed and to connect with their neighbors. 

While newspapers have traditionally served audiences on a city or regional level, this project explores how neighborhoods in a city can be served with relevant news, information and messages from local businesses or organizations. 

Targeted community newsletters will give both journalists and local businesses the opportunity to connect with and serve more residents and also amplify the services and information that community groups already offer on a hyperlocal level.

The Lenfest Local Lab is the Lenfest Institute’s local news product development and user experience innovation team. The Lab operates as part of the Institute and works in the open to benefit the local news industry. 

For the past year, the Lab has gained traction in the Philadelphia area by launching four new products with The Philadelphia Inquirer, which is operated as a public benefit corporation and is owned by the Lenfest Institute. The Lab’s experiments have all focused on location-based news, neighborhoods, community, and new digital formats that respond to reader’s geolocation and preferences. The Lab’s business imperative is to create new user engagement that leads to new revenue streams for local news.

The Lenfest Lab has experimented with a broad range of local news content from politics and elections to restaurant reviews and architecture critiques from The Inquirer’s Pulitzer Prize winning writer, Inga Saffron. These products tested applying new technologies to local news product development, including motion detection (Here app) and the use of real-time location (Philly Eats) to meet people where they are. 

The Lenfest Institute award is one of 34, totaling $5.8 million, that the Google News Initiative announced on Friday. The Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge is part of a global effort to support journalism innovation. 

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