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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.
Demand Media, founded in 2006, is an online media company that quickly grew to prominence by algorithmically assigning and publishing stories based on user-demand signals, such as search and social media trends. It typically pays authors a low sum of money for these posts, often about $15 per contribution, and assigns posts only when it believes…