Today I heard all about the Knight Foundation's News Challenge, "a contest awarding as much as $5 million for innovative ideas using digital experiments to transform community news and information exchange."
Susan Mernit of the Knight Foundation made it clear that the contest is for INNOVATIVE ideas. As she said, "if all of the projects we fund succeed, then we are being too safe. We want 50% of them to fail. We want to fund experiments, not businesses."
That being said, anything goes. Here are some possible pitches:
1. Some way to enable major media organizations to make money while providing free content to users.
2. Node-based multimedia news aggregator: ever notices how aggregators are purely text? This doesn't work in print, so why should it work on the net? This site would allow users to flag photos, videos, slideshows and all multimedia bits they come across on the net, linking them to each other and to a central "node" which is a story or issue area (Hurricane Katrina, for instance).
4. A GPS-based tracking service that you sign up with your GPS-enabled cell phone. It will alert you to news stories and community-based blogs wherever you are.
5. Fairtrade online marketplace: a register of fair-trade online stores by country, so that anyone who cares to can shop in a way that will benefit projects in a certain country.
I am also considering some partnerships. My colleagues have some fantastic ideas as well. I know none of these are too revolutionary, but hey - the brainstorm is just getting started...