Wednesday, November 07, 2012

OpenFile books in a mess and it may, or may not, come back in 2013

We reported in September that the OpenFile news site was being suspended pending a reorganization. Now, based on a conversation between CEO Wilf Dinnick and Kelly Toughill for J-source, we know the shape of those changes. The central issue is when, or if, the site will ever be back in business. And if it will ever pay its bills.

Dinnick talked in more detail about several problems, including sloppy bookkeeping and a drift away from the site's mandate to let readers drive the story selection. The result is that many of the freelancers who worked for OpenFile are still waiting to be paid. He also acknowledged
“Too fast growth, too much. We spent too much money too fast.”
He said he has been talking with two US media companies about investment.
“We want to find a strategic partner, someone who has sales channels. When we look at growing OpenFile, I don’t want to invest heavily in my own sales network. That’s ridiculous for us.”
Dinnick said OpenFile said that the site could come back sometime in 2013 and would like to move towards sponsored and custom content as well as selling content to other media -- something that it may be able to do because it believes it can produce content less expensively. He gave, as examples of possible custom content models the kind of things done by the Openforum site run by American Express and Coke 2020 Youtube videos.

This is all a very long way from the promise of the venture which was that it would connect readers to their communities. One might wonder whether the price of surviving is worth putting the idea in thrall to corporate sponsors and foreign investors. Dinnick was dubbed the "chief enthusiast" for OpenFile, and was named last year's Newsperson of the Year by J-source. Now, however, he is saying that piloting a startup is like being punched in the face every day.


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