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Editor’s Note: Encyclo has not been regularly updated since August 2014, so information posted here is likely to be out of date and may be no longer accurate. It’s best used as a snapshot of the media landscape at that point in time.

OpenFile was a user-driven local news site based in Toronto, with affiliates in five other Canadian cities, Montréal, Calgary, Ottawa, and Vancouver, and Halifax.

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 stopped producing content in September 2012 and went offline altogether in February 2013, though Dinnick left the door open for a relaunch.

OpenFile’s content was centered on public-interest news, rather than culture and the arts. It also maintained wiki-style topic pages on local subjects and moved into aggregation as well.

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.

Peers, allies, & competitors:
Recent Nieman Lab coverage:
April 4, 2018 / Ashley Renders
What a failed media startup can teach us about involving readers in reporting — When OpenFile launched in 2010, the tight-knit Canadian media community reacted with slightly skeptical enthusiasm. Legacy newspapers including The Globe and Mail and National Post said OpenFile was going to revolutioniz...
May 11, 2010 / Megan Garber
“Always collaborate”: Say hello to OpenFile, the local news site putting those new media maxims to the test — The thing about new media maxims is that, all too often, they remain just that — maxims. Smart ideas that guide our thinking, yes, but that don’t get much tangible testing in the hectic, messy space where journal...

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Primary author: Mark Coddington. Main text last updated: February 28, 2013.
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