Knight News Challenge

The Knight News Challenge accelerates media innovation by funding breakthrough ideas in news and information. Winners receive a share of $5 million in funding and support from Knight’s network of influential peers and advisors to help advance their ideas. The first round of 2013, which opens in February, will invite innovators from all disciplines to focus on tools for open government. In 2012, three challenge rounds, each focused on an emerging trend, drew more than 2,500 entries.

Challenge 1 - on NETWORKS: Winners were announced June 18.

Challenge 2 - on DATA: Winners were announced Sept. 20.

Challenge 3 – on MOBILE: Winners were announced Jan. 17.

Anyone, anywhere can apply for the challenge - whether for-profit start-ups or non-profit ventures. For more information on a variety of topics - from guidelines for for-profits, on intellectual property licensing, open source software and more - visit our FAQ.

Frequently Asked Questions

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What is the Knight News Challenge?

The News Challenge aims to accelerate innovation in news and information by funding the best new ideas and supporting them with a network of peers and advisors.

Why should I apply to the News Challenge?

Winning the News Challenge makes you part of an international network of entrepreneurs and experts unlike any other. We invest in your project from start to finish— Knight Foundation helps our partners develop their organizations, recruit collaborators, manage projects and grow their networks.

What does Knight Foundation do?

We support transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. Read more about Knight at

What kind of ideas are you looking for in News Challenge: Mobile?

Tools and approaches that use mobile to inform people and communities. This might include new mobile applications, tools to help journalists or others leverage mobile, platforms to empower mobile users, and so on. We’re interested in a broad range of topics, so if you’re unsure if your idea fits, we encourage you to go ahead and apply.

Who can enter the News Challenge?

Anyone, anywhere, of any age. This competition is open to nonprofits, for-profits or individuals of any age, anywhere in the world. Awards to minors will be made to an intermediary designated by Knight Foundation.

What are the funding options for a non-profit organization?

We offer charitable grants to registered US nonprofit organizations with 501(c)3 status. International organizations must work with a US-based partner fiscal agent (we can help arrange this) in order to receive a grant from us.

I’m a for-profit company. Can I enter?

Yes. There are several funding options:

    • Grants to for-profits (for charitable activity, such as open-source development)
    • Program Related Investments (no-interest five year loan, usually as convertible notes)

[sample PRI Term Sheet]

  • Knight Enterprise Fund (an equity investment for projects raising a full round of funding)
  • Don’t worry too much about those specifics before applying. If you’re selected to move forward as a semi-finalist, we’ll communicate with you about the details.

Can two organizations/people submit a collaborative project?

Yes. We have funding mechanisms to make partnership projects possible.

If I applied previously and did not win, can I apply again?

Yes, and you should, if you have an idea that fits the conference theme.

How many different projects can I submit to News Challenge?

As many as you like.

I’m not a software developer or designer, but I have a good idea. Can I apply?

Yes, absolutely. But you should keep in mind that we’ve found that the most successful projects are those with technology expertise on the team from the early stages.


How do I apply?

Answer the 8 questions on the application form (which will be available starting August 29). Brevity counts. The application closes at NOON EST on September 10. All entries posted are visible to the public. We’ll contact semifinalists for additional information at a later date, including a more detailed application and a full project budget.

What if I don’t want my idea to be public?

We believe ideas improve when they’re publicly available. But we’ll accept a closed application. Write your project, name and phone number in the subject line of an e-mail. Paste the answers to our application questions in the body. Send to and we’ll add it to the pile.

What parts of my budget will you fund?

We’ll pay for what it takes to design, develop, and implement the project, as well as marketing and travel.We don’t fund universities’ overhead costs or administrative fees.

Who decides who wins?

Our trustees make the final call, with staff recommendations. A group of expert reviewers advise.You can see who’s helped us review applications in the past at

Can issue-specific projects, such as those on health or the environment, apply?

Yes, as long as they fit the broader theme of the challenge.

Can I apply with a project that’s already been started?

Yes, if it fits the theme and if you’re proposing to do new, innovative things with the existing project.

Can I attach files to my application?

Can be attached with Tumblr’s post functionality. No additional files are required, though - just the 8 questions on our form.

Have any tips for good applications?

Be brief. Ask people who don’t know your project to review your application. Make sure it fits the mobile theme. Reviewers and staff often find applications to be unclear or vague in describing specifics of what will be built, how it works, and so on. Being clear can help you tremendously.

How do I decide what amount to apply for?

Awards can be made for just about any amount - $1,000 to $1,000,000. Obviously large awards are less common than smaller ones, but you should apply for what you need. If you need help budgeting, take a look at existing applications and at similar projects’ budget reports (such as 10Ks and 990s, available online). Or contact us with questions.


What are the the IP terms of the News Challenge?

If you win, you’ll own copyright on your intellectual property. But under most funding options, you’ll be required to release what you build as open source (unless we’re making an Enterprise investment in a company).

Legalese detail: Grants to nonprofits have a strict requirement: any software developed with grant money must be made open source under a GNU General Public License. The same is true for grants to for-profit companies. The business receiving a grant agrees to bind itself to the open source license it owns as if it were a licensee. If a Program Related Investment is made, only the initial release must be open source, and future versions can be licensed in different ways. At the end of the funding period, the company can pay back the funds it received or Knight can take a stake in the company. An Enterprise Fund equity investment has no open-source requirements.

What is your definition of releasing as “open source”?

Software that is available for anyone to use or build upon at the conclusion of the grant period. You will own your platform, but you will have to share the software you develop under a GNU General Public License (GPL) (or other open source license, by agreement with us) and any documents, manuals or instructions under Creative Commons licensing. We consider exceptions to these requirements on a case-by-case basis.

Am I required to build on existing open source software?

We love to see existing open source software used, but it’s not required.

What is Knight Foundation’s IP licensing policy?

Knight Foundation’s intellectual property (IP) licensing policy seeks to use IP terms and conditions in its agreements that allow projects to achieve their highest possible impact and Knight’s highest social return on investment. This licensing policy also aims to increase the transparency of grant outcomes by allowing for greater sharing of knowledge and adoption among user communities. The specific type of license required by Knight Foundation depends on the type of IP being created, the type of organization receiving the support and the specific objectives of the project.

In general, non-charitable organizations (for-profits or individuals) receiving a grant must use the most permissible IP licenses. In addition to licensing the IP, non-charitable organizations will also be licensees themselves and so subject to the terms of the license for any future versions of the IP. If non-charitable organizations receive a Program Related Investment (PRI) they are not required to be licensees.


What is the deadline for entry?

The application will close noon EST on September 10, 2012.

When do I find out if I won?

We will announce winners in January.

When does the money arrive if I win?

Awards will be distributed in 2013, based on a schedule agreed upon with each individual winner. The first payments are usually made within 60 days of project approval.

If a team of people enters, who gets the money?

This depends on your organizational structure. If you’re creating a company or nonprofit, the money goes there. If you’re operating as individuals, we work out split payments on a case-by-case basis.

Are winnings taxable?

This depends on your organizational structure and financial situation. A tax professional can help you answer this question depending on the type of funding you receive from us. Grants for charitable activity are generally not taxed.

What if my project fails?

We’ll do everything we can to help you succeed, providing organizational development help and connections to helpful people. But we understand that many projects fail, and aim to learn as much as we can in the process.

I have a similar idea to one you’ve funded in the past, but think I can improve on what exists now. Should I apply?


More questions?