News site as wiki : Wiki North East

Can a news site draw more readers via a complementary wiki?

Paul Bradshaw posted on E-Media Tidbits about the U.K. daily Trinity Mirror’s launch of what he describes as a wiki-blog hybrid at Wiki-North-East.co.uk from an idea from web developer Louise Midgley.

Midgley, 28, who works for Trinity’s North-East division ncjMedia, won a cash prize and will also get a future share of any profits from her idea.

The wiki-blog features up to 12 years’ worth of digital archives documenting the North East England’s events and people that were not previously being used on ncjMedia’s sites.

Bradshaw says:

“I’ve written extensively on wiki journalism and its possibilities, and it’s great to see some experimentation in the U.K. However, at this stage there is a small problem: It’s very hard to find anything to edit.

For instance, Wiki North East features several “topics,” such as Kevin Keegan or wind farms. But users cannot edit these topic overviews themselves — only the “articles” underneath them. To further confuse things, “articles” that are taken from the newspaper archive are not editable. Also, at the moment, those are the only articles I can find on the site.

In other words, there’s nothing to edit. The result is something of a wiki-blog hybrid.

The most obvious button, “Add your content to this topic,” does allow you to create an article from scratch. (You also can add a topic — you can only do that from your account page.)

This approach is puzzling. One of the reasons Wikipedia was so successful is that it did not start with nothing — it took content created in a prior (edited) incarnation, along with copyright-free encyclopedia material. Wikipedia also explicitly invited users to help with incomplete entries (”nubs”).

Wiki North East might benefit from a similar approach:

-Make archive articles and topics editable.
-Offer incomplete content that needs editing.

In other words: Let go!

Of course, the biggest challenge is building a community that cares enough about the site to repair the inevitable vandalism. Good luck with that.

Actually, I like the interface of Wiki North East — it’s clearly more user-friendly and less dour than Wikipedia.

Perhaps, for any news org, the proposition of assigning a few to manage the many Wikipedia-style may be too scary. Especially for smaller media companies trying to re-charge their sites with limited resources. The threat of suits also may be too high a price to pay for naively trusting everyone to play nice.

Even Wikipedia has changed its policy on this, and the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post have aborted free-to-critique projects after being deluged with crude comments from highly-motivated trolls.

Wiki North East encourages readers to dig deeper for information in a site they can trust. Credible content is more link-worthy and baits advertising.

The next step is for the project to constantly provide links to more contemporary stories/most-viewed stories on its current sites in the ncjMedia stable and vice versa and perhaps to link out to blog posts about the region.

Related today:
Where Are the News Org Wikis? by Amy Gahran
J-Schools Use Geo-tagging, Wikis, iPhones to Teach
Loudun library with county-wide Wiki

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