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OpenFile was founded by Canadian journalist Wilf Dinnick in May 2010. The site relied on users to direct its news coverage, inviting them to start a “file” (the site’s founders chose the term to suggest the dynamic process of newsgathering) for a local news story, then allowing other users to add to the file. The site’s editors produced professionally reported additions to selected files.
The site had six editors and six curators who worked on contract, and it received several million dollars of startup investment from an anonymous Canadian corporate source. Its owners expressed hopes to initially earn revenue through advertising and eventually to further expand the site to other Canadian cities and eventually the United States. It sold advertising in part through sponsored stories, but it could not sustain the site’s operations.
The site also hired freelance writers, with bonuses based on pageviews and frequent updates. As of October 2010, OpenFile had around 200 freelancers based in and around Toronto. Many of those freelancers were left unpaid when the site shut down.
Hearst Corp. is a privately held American media conglomerate. Hearst owns 15 daily newspapers, led by the Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle. It also owns numerous magazines, including Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Seventeen, and O. Hearst also owns broadcasting and digital properties, including the search marketing firm iCrossing. Hearst shut down the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s…