How The Guardian’s Crowdsourcing Experiment Ran Out Of Steam

This morning, news of a crowdsourcing success. This afternoon, a high-profile example seemingly a little stuck in the mud.

Six weeks ago the Guardian invited its readers to help it trawl through hundreds of thousands of expense claim documents released (in redacted form) by Parliament.

Within three days 20,000 people had helped classify 160,000 pages. The paper was rightly proud of its crowdsourcing experiment and splashed the news across the front page of its Monday print edition.

But now it seems user involvement has slowed to a trickle.

These are the bare facts:

We have 458,832 pages of documents. 23,185 of you have reviewed 201,587 of them. Only 257,245 to go…

By my reckoning, around 500 documents were processed last week. At this rate, we’ll be nearing 2020 before the project is complete.

This is not to say the experiment has failed but the paper does need to work out how it ties up some loose ends. If it cannot re-energise the crowd, that is.

 – Is That The Sound Of The Crowd? Just Maybe.
 – Crowdsourcing 1920s-Style
 – What MPs’ expenses tells us about the clash between new and old media
 – The Guardian, Daily Telegraph and BBC: Lessons in Crowdsourcing
 – BBC Goes Crowdsourcing To Save The NHS


Putting The Guardian Into The MediaGuardian 100

So to the annual MediaGuardian 100. I guess the clue is in the name. The paper likes to slice and dice entrants in its power list – under 40s, top 10 fallers, top 10 women, you know the kind of thing.

How’s this for size?

1. Carolyn McCall, chief executive, Guardian Media Group
2. Alan Rushbridger, editor, the Guardian
3. Stephen Fry, presenter, writer, actor (and former Guardian Weekend magazine columnist)
4. David Mitchell, actor, writer, presenter (and current Observer columnist)
5. Armando Iannucci, writer, director, producer, performer (and former Observer columnist)
6. Emily Bell, director of digital content, Guardian News & Media

At least they had the good grace to put Will Lewis, editor-in-chief of the paper responsible for the biggest newspaper story of the year, at number 10, a full 25 places above Carolyn McCall.

Elsewhere, here’s one for the digerati – the Top 10 Purely Digital:

1. Sergei Brin and Larry Page, Google
2. Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive, Apple
3. Steve Ballmer, Microsoft
4. Evan Williams, Twitter
5. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook
6. Jason Kilar, Hulu
7. Daniel Ek, Spotify
8. Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post
9. Paul Staines, Guido Fawkes blog
10. Richard Moross,

The Guardian, News Of The World And The Other Side Of Scoops

A rather familiar voice on the radio at 7.10 this morning.

Nick Davies – investigative journalist, author of Flat Earth News and co-founder of the recently announced The Investigations Fund – was talking to Evan Davis about the Guardian exclusive that’s splashed across most of the other (non-News International) papers today.

Davies was detailing his story which alleges among other things:

• News of the World bugging led to £700,000 payout to PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor
• Sun editor Rebekah Wade and Conservative communications chief Andy Coulson – both ex-NoW editors – involved
• News International chairman Les Hinton told MPs reporter jailed for phone-hacking was one-off case

Many of those cited have launched vigorous defences, not least Andy Coulson who is David Cameron’s spin meister.

So what does this tale tell us?

At once it shows that investigative journalism is alive and well (The Guardian method) and also in a state of crisis (the alleged News of the World method).

But it also tells us that newspapers are incredibly proprietorial about their exclusives.

Sure, the Davies investigation emerged last night and led Channel 4 News among others, but by then it was firmly a Guardian story. The paper and its journalists had done the leg work so why shouldn’t they reap the benefits?

And for three hours this morning, the Today Programme was (rightly) slapping the back of a rival news organisation.

But as I’ve argued before, the need for the a scoop – built into the media DNA – is at odds with collaborative investigations. Or at least it can be. This is no value judgement, just a fact of newspaper life.

In short that’s one of the biggest challenges for initiatives like The Investigations Fund and Help Me Investigate.

Good luck to both.

Is The Investigations Fund A Solution To The Crisis in Journalism?

Old Media Doesn’t Die: Daily Telegraph, Guardian And MPs’ Expenses

A quick plug for my new column for those nice people at

First up, an assessment of the old and new media coverage of MPs’ expenses a week on from the heavily redacted Parliamentary disclosure.

In essence I argue that these occasionally bitchy arguments between proponents of ‘proper’ journalism and those who champion collaborative journalism are largely bogus:

Nothing demonstrates the laziness of the ‘winners and losers’ legend more than the domestic news story of the year – MPs’ expenses. Here we have seen the best of old and new media, one feeding off the other.

Anyway, you can read it for yourselves here.

This should turn into a regular gig, a weekly look at where media and technology meet. Next week? Who knows. Have a good weekend.

The Guardian, Daily Telegraph and BBC: Lessons in Crowdsourcing

I began the week reflecting on the BBC’s initiative asking radio listeners to come up with pain-free ways the NHS could save money.

The week ends with an army of Guardian readers sorting and classifying 700,000+ MPs’ expenses documents.

Two examples of old media embracing crowdsourcing and it will be interesting to see how both fair.

From the outside, the Guardian feels inherently more switched on to the potential of outsourcing some of its journalism to the crowd. Continue reading The Guardian, Daily Telegraph and BBC: Lessons in Crowdsourcing