Contributoria is the newest experimental project to emerge from Guardian Media Group, the company behind both the Guardian and the Observer. If it is successful, it could help ever-struggling freelance writers support each other through every step of the writing process; proposing a story, writing the content, editing several drafts, and of course, getting paid.
According to its website, Contributoria works on a "rolling publishing cycle [that] operates in three different modes—planning, production and publication." In the planning stage, writers who have been pre-approved by Contributoria can propose story ideas, which are then backed by members through a point system—the number of points allocated to members ranges due to their membership fees.
For the March issue, Rich McEachran, has proposed a story titled, "How dirty is your chocolate, coffee or smartphone?" which will uncover the "atrocities behind the products we buy." Currently he has 7 backers, allotting him 395 points out of the 572 points he will need to get to the next phase—almost like a crowdfunding model but without any cash.
If McEachran does get all the points he needs, in month two of the project his peers will help edit various drafts, in the efforts of improving the overall quality of his work, while his byline remains completely intact. For its collaborative editing software, Contributoria partnered with Poetica, a platform that enables a live co-editing process for members, much like Google Docs.
Back to the "dirty chocolate" story—after three months of work, the final draft of McEachran's story would go live on the site, free to the public, available for re-use with a Creative Commons license. Writers are paid through a funding pool stemming from the community membership fees.
The project has enormous potential to draw in writers and reporters who are exhausted writing for free and/or having their articles shredded by editors at news organizations. By combining crowdsourcing and writing, while simultaneously ensuring that writers are paid fees for the production of their content, Contributoria might just change the landscape of journalism away from an editor-driven model.
The Guardian has been at the forefront of numerous amendments to that landscape with other projects like their API, a platform to read news stories one at a time, and n0tice 2.0, a community noticeboard where news and events are posted for everyone's use.
Contributoria, while pretty terribly named, could give underdog stories a bit of leverage. My favorite of this month's issue? An article entitled, "Can fish and chips make you British?" which you can check out on the Contributoria website here.