From councillors to porn actresses: why readers can soon edit our site

De Correspondent’s plans for 2015


In the spring of 2013, we launched a crowdfunding campaign for a Dutch in-depth journalism platform. To our astonishment, almost 19,000 pioneers contributed a total of 1.7 million dollars.

We got to work, hired a staff of thirteen, found ourselves an office in Amsterdam and launched in September 2013.

Since then, we have published 2,240 stories, podcasts and documentaries. Our 30,000 paying members (€60 p/y) wrote almost 90,000 contributions below these articles.

We focus on background, analysis and investigative reporting. So most of our stories are still relevant.

Stories disappear into infinite scroll territories

Unfortunately, we don’t manage to get these stories under our members’ attention for more than a day or two. Members visit us through our daily, weekly and monthly newsletters and Facebook page. An article shows up on their social streams and inboxes. Then it slowly disappears into infinite scroll territories.

And who looks up a two-week old story anyway?

The only way our members can discover older articles is through Google. Other than that, our stories are as durable as a print newspaper in a cat’s litter box.

We’ll do everything in our power to change this in 2015. And we’ll ask our members for help.

First of all, we’ll introduce collections. Hardly innovative, but it’s something we didn’t get around to yet. Our authors do have their own profile pages featuring their articles. But we’re not yet able to show connections between articles of different correspondents.

What I’m excited about though, is that we’ll also invite members to create collections. Not just by curating our stories, but also reports and articles from external sources.

Why we’ll invite members to edit our site

One of our main goals is to extract knowledge from our members. For now, they can only share their expertise by contributing below articles. We are quite happy with the results so far. When we investigated money flows in the porn industry, data scientists and hackers provided us with information in the contributions section. Also, a porn actress joined in and we interviewed her about how she got paid. We value this kind of expertise as much as academic knowledge.

And recently we launched a research project about a shift in Dutch government. The responsibility for health care moved from the national to the municipal level. We wanted to know how well this transition was coming along. Several knowledgable members shared their experiences. Amongst them were councillors, software engineers and psychiatrists.

That’s why we see our journalists as conversation leaders and our members as contributing experts. The comment section is a decent medium to support that mission. But it’s also far from perfect.

Comments in general have a terrible image problem. It’s hard to convince everyone that the comment section on our site is actually more than a shouting competition. Also, members can’t take initiative. They always have to follow the direction our journalists take. This doesn’t make sense, since 30,000 members know and see more than our 30 authors.

So when members can create their own collections, they can also tell us where to look.

How will these collections work?

With the collection feature, members can organize our stories and add notes to them. Moreover, they can share external sources, such as reports, research, their own experiences and articles from other journalism outlets. By doing that, they can take initiative and steer our journalistic research.

A teacher can start a collection about innovation in education. A hacker about digital security measures. Or think about the councillor I mentioned earlier. He can keep us posted on the transition by uploading relevant documents and by writing notes.

Our authors could then review the collections and report on the new perspectives. This is important, because we’ll have more feelers for what happens in society.

Won’t our site become a mess?

Inevitably, collections will emerge that won’t meet our journalistic standards. A member could forget about a collection or lack time to add more sources. That’s why we won’t introduce an overview of all the collections made my members. Rather, we’ll ask our authors to highlight good collections and sources. Moreover, members can reach the collections of other members by following each other. Also, a member can share his collection on social media.

Here’s our planning

This is a big step for us. In 2015, De Correspondent will become more than just a journalistic publication. We will become a social network for sharing knowledge.

We’ll roll out the collection feature in three phases:

1. Before the summer, we’ll introduce the collections for our authors. They’ll start organizing their own articles and test all the features.

2. We’ll then invite a small group of members to test the feature. We hope to do this in the fourth quarter of 2015.

3. We’ll improve the collections based on feedback from the test groups. We will release the feature to all our members in early 2016.

We hired three extra developers to help realise our plans. We haven’t sketched everything out yet. But I already wanted to share our ideas to ignite a discussion about new forms of reader engagement.


Thank you for reading! I’ll keep you posted on our next steps by writing stories on Medium. You can also like our international Facebook page, where we’ll share translated articles.

Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions by tweeting to @ejpfauth or by emailing me.