Knight Foundation Grants $1.37 Million to Six New Media Ventures

Six new startups range from a disaster-relief tracking platform to an aggregator of mobile video streams of breaking news

Six media innovation ventures — ranging from an encrypted communication tool for potentially wiretapped journalists to an aggregator of breaking news video streams — received more than $1.37 million as winners of the first of three Knight News Challenges.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation named the winners Monday at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Knight Civic Media Conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

For the first time, the Knight Foundation is hosting three separate "News Challenges," each centered on spurring innovation in different areas. The first round on networks will stimulate six new projects that are built on existing networks, such as Ustream or Twitter.

Also read: The Future of Journalism

The winners are:

1. Peepol.tv – Leveraging streaming networks like Ustream and TweetCaster, Peepol.TV will aggregate live mobile video streams of breaking news events into an easily searchable world map, connecting users directly to global events as they unfold.

2. Recovers.org – After a tornado destroyed their Massachusetts home, two sisters created an online organizing platform that helps disaster-stricken communities quickly launch recovery efforts. In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, Recovers.org enables communities to launch a website that ensures that heightened news attention translates into donations, volunteers and more.

3. Signalnoi.se – Enabling newsrooms to monitor what is resonating with readers and make smarter editorial decisions about which stories get covered and promoted, Signalnoi.se is a dashboard that tracks stories through social networks and across competitor sites.

4. Watchup – An iPad app that makes it easier to find and watch high-quality news videos, Watchup speeds the search for relevant content by offering a curated playlist that aggregates news reports into a simple interface.

5. Behavio – Behavio is an open-source platform that turns phones into smart sensors of people’s real-world behavior – from how they use their phones to how they communicate with others. Funding will be used to help programmers build apps with smarter sensors, create tools for journalists that uncover trends in community data and launch a mobile application that allows individuals to explore data about their lives.

6. Tor Project – With journalists and their sources increasingly threatened by governments, criminal organizations and others who monitor their mobile and online communication, the Tor Project will use its vast network of volunteers to create a tool kit that will enable journalists to communicate more safely with sources by using the organization’s secure Web browser, an anonymous upload utility and more.