What to tackle at Build The News 3

Half of the tickets for the next Build The News have now gone. If you haven’t got yours yet, sign up your team today.

Here are some ideas of what you can tackle and build on the day.

Interaction. A lot of news organisations are getting rid of comments – can you come up with a better way to engage readers?

Social sources. Traditionally crediting user-generated content has not worked as well as we believe it should – can you create a system that solves this problem and serves both publisher and content-creator well?

Context. It can be difficult to get up to speed with a topic that suddenly becomes big news. Build something that gives the reader the context around stories and explains the wider situation.

These aren’t strict categories, and you’re welcome to do a project that isn’t similar to these, but they’re there to give you guidance and spark ideas.

Build The News 2015

A team discusses their project at Build The News in October 2014
A team discusses their project at Build The News in October 2014

News UK are pleased to announce the third Build The News event, to be held on the weekend of March 28th at the company’s London Bridge offices; home to the leading British newspapers, The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times.

The event promises a weekend of excitement and challenge for students from across the UK converging to discuss the future of media and conceptualise tools to bring it closer.

Further event information and registration can be found on the Eventbrite page where tickets can be purchased for £4 per person.


Category 3: Making longform work on mobile

Many people point to the success of the New York Times’ Snow Fall as the catalyst for longform reading growing in popularity on the web.

Their work showed what could be done with traditional longform journalism when combined with animation, video and parallax scrolling. Conversely, sites like Pocket, Readability and Instapaper all seek to bring you great things to read by stripping away any distractions to let the reader focus on the text alone.

At The Times and The Sunday Times, we’ve experimented with immersive longform, with pieces on Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousafzai, and we’re currently in the process of building a suite of tools to help us create a new type of article presentation for our longform journalism.

However, the big question with a lot of these pieces is how they work well on mobile. So far, many attempts haven’t been particularly successful.

If you’re thinking of taking on this category at Build The News, you need to think about:

  • What elements you should include alongside text
  • How to make sure that those elements add to, not distract from, the text
  • How to make it readable on mobile – a long piece with lots of scrolling time needs to be carefully thought about
  • The finer details – fonts, image sizing, column width

I’ve pulled together a couple of resources below that may give you some ideas and inspiration if you’re thinking of entering in this category. And remember – we’re focusing on mobile for this event, so getting this working on your phone is the key goal.

10 examples of good longform journalism presentation

Interview with Joe Sexton, who led the team that produced Snow Fall 

shorthand-logo-transThis category is supported by Shorthand.

Category 2: Creating a campaign platform


Taking a campaign online can help further your cause in many ways. It can draw more attention to your goals and put you in touch with like-minded people around the world – not just those in your immediate area.

The Times and Sunday Times have both run successful campaigns that made best use of digital resources. The Times launched its Cities Fit For Cycling campaign after reporter Mary Bowers was critically injured when colliding with a lorry, and it tapped into existing cycling networks, bloggers and Twitter users, and adopted the hashtag #cyclesafe.

This challenge is all about creating a campaigning platform that empowers its users, spreads their message as far as possible and holds a clear path to the organisation or people intended to be lobbied.

If you’re thinking of taking on this category at Build The News, you need to think about:

  • How can you make it easy for users to understand and participate in a campaign?
  • All platforms – how to ensure people can sign up for a campaign on their preferred device
  • What elements do those organising the campaign need to consider? How do you include enough flexibility without confusing the message?

List of good campaign examples and platforms

Category 1: Actions and Commenting – how do you engage readers properly?

Photo by duncan on Flickr.
Photo by duncan on Flickr.

Commenting has been touted as both an advantage and a disadvantage of the web for news organisations. It can be used to bring readers into a discussion – they can be great for finding stories and building relationships. However they can often descend into madness and require constant attention and guidance if they are to be an asset.

Comments tend to appear at the bottom of every article (unless the news desk were afraid of contempt and turned them off), however it seems silly to us to always ask readers to comment (or turn them off and have no alternative)

Assuming you have a reader’s attention at the end of an article – what do you want to do with it?

What if, instead of commenting you’d rather they shared a particular article, or made it easy for them to write to their MP, what if you want them to rate somewhere you have reviewed or answer a polling question? Or upload a picture of their own experiences?

If you’re thinking of tackling this category at Build The News, you need to think about:

  • When you have an engaged reader, what do you do with their time and energy?
  • How do you make it easy for journalists to engage with readers further?
  • How do you improve quality, how do help readers find comments that interest them?
  • Can you tell if your readership agree with a columnist?


If you haven’t got your ticket for Build The News yet, you can sign up your team here.

This category is supported by Livefyre


Announcing Build The News 2

Last February’s Build The News was a great success. We really enjoyed the two days and it resulted in us meeting many fantastic digital journalists and developers.

It was so successful, in fact, that one of the attendees now works for us and the winning team ‘Ferret’ (originally named Low Pass) have spent two paid weeks working on their idea in the office with our team.

With that in mind, we’re really excited to announce Build The News 2, taking place this October.

This time the theme of the weekend is all around Mobile.

It’ll be on the weekend of 18th/19th October, at Hub Westminster (agenda here). We’re looking for teams of 3 to 5 from universities around the UK. Each team should contain at least one web developer who is proficient in using HTML, CSS and Javascript, or server-side frameworks such as Python, PHP, Java etc.

The aim is to see how student journalists and developers can work together to create innovative forms of storytelling, with a choice of topic and prizes awarded for the best in each category. You can order your tickets here.

Teams will benefit from the expertise of Times, Sunday Times and Sun staff, as well as companies (to be announced) with interesting APIs and tool kits to give feedback and assistance with your projects.


No matter what category you choose to tackle this time around we want you to consider it from a mobile point of view. It is an area a lot of news organisations have been slow to tackle and the mobile experience of their readership is often a second thought.


We’ll be blogging about these categories over the next 2 weeks – giving examples to inspire you and letting you know what tools and support there will be during the weekend


– many news organisations often just dump a comment box at the end of every article – what if you had a way to place more considered calls to action at the end of an article?


– media organisations love a cause – can you build a toolkit or platform that helps news organisations harness the power of their readership quickly and easily?

Live sports coverage

– we think it’s a little bit odd that live coverage of such an emotional experience as sport is covered mainly in text… can you re-invent the way we deliver sporting coverage to readers on the go?

If you’ve any questions about the weekend, let us know. Otherwise you can sign up for your tickets here.

Take a look at photos of the last Build The News here, or check out the video below:


Build The News event update

On the weekend of Feb 22/23 The Times and Sunday Times Digital Team ran its first coding event.

Named Build The News, we invited 10 student teams and our two titles to compete in four categories over two days to see who could produce the most disruptive / useful / innovative new way to find information or tell stories digitally.


After almost 14 hours of idea generation, sense checking, designing and coding our attendees had to present back and show us what they had made and why.

We wanted the students to think very carefully about solving a particular problem – whether this was for journalists in the newsroom or for readers on digital platforms.

The teams rose to the challenge in spectacular fashion, some bit off more than they could chew and had to pivot to narrower solutions, others faced technical challenges that ate up precious time, two lost their developers at short notice.

Yet they were all still standing at the end to pitch their ideas to our judging panel.

The four categories we asked teams to focus on were:


Think about long form journalism on the web across multiple devices. How do you make sure the experience is immersive, readable and doesn’t distract from the story?


The power of the crowd is growing with the internet – can you develop a tool or platform that allows newsrooms to campaign effectively on issues that matter to their readers?


The Sunday tradition of sharing sections of the paper, the magazine and supplements around the kitchen table is evolving – can you think of an idea that enhances the reading/sharing experience?


It’s easier than ever to find out what readers / citizens / protesters think and feel – how do you make it easier for newsrooms to find the details and people that matter around big events and moments?


There was an fantastic atmosphere in the room all weekend with groups working incredibly hard to keep their ideas on track, often realising that they could simplify solutions further both technically and for their proposed users.

On the Saturday night we took everyone out for dinner and drinks so the teams could properly socialise with each other –  the first day had been very intense and we wanted to make sure people were relaxed before day two began.

The ideas

12 teams presented back to the group as a whole on Sunday afternoon; 10 student teams and two title ones. The title teams were only competing for bragging rights and it was closely fought, with The Sunday Times winning with their Trust.it concept.

We then had a judges prize for best presentation which went to Winchester with Longform.ly

Category winners were:

Crowd – Birmingham City University/HS2

Stretch – Kingston/Slide

Noise – Goldsmiths/Be There

Digest – University of Birmingham/Digest

Event winner – City, Imperial/Low Pass


Overall we were impressed with the ideas all the teams pursued, they had really taken to heart our advice to focus on solving a problem, rather than features for the sake of it – a good lesson for any newsroom.

We’ll be blogging in more detail about each of the ideas shortly as well as publishing a social roundup.


Thanks to everyone that helped make the weekend a success:

Main venue: BL-NK

Food: Speck Mobile

Prizes: Spotify

T-shirts: Action Advertising

Evening venue: Corney and Barrow


Build the News: Day one update


As we draw to a close on our first day of Build The News everyone’s projects are starting to take shape.

A few good project names are appearing

  • Be there
  • Digest
  • Longform.ly
  • Pension time bomb myth or reality
  • Low pass
  • Slide
  • Sunday Times
  • Syria: The road from Damascus to hell
  • Source
  • Trust.it
  • HS2 campaign

and you can learn more about what they mean on our Hack Dash

Earlier in the day the teams heard from Alan Hunter (Head of Digital, TNL) Nicola Ryan, Head of Digital Design for The Times, Matt Taylor & Joseph Stashko from TNL and Ben Fogarty, CEO of Shorthand. They then had two hours to work on ideas, decide which category they wanted to tackle and get a 3 minute pitch together for an after lunch ‘sense check’.

This afternoon everyone has had a massive 4.5 hour building/designing/researching/coding session before we head off to the pub for some down time and chance for teams to meet each other properly.

See you all tomorrow for day two, another massive building session and then final presentations and judging.

Travel Information for Build The News

The day is almost here for Build The News, so here’s a list of directions from major stations to get to Build The News.

We are holding Build The News at BLNK, 37 East Road, London, N1 6AZ. The nearest tube station is Old Street, which is a 5 minute walk from the venue.

From Euston

Take the Northern Line, southbound on the Bank branch. Journey time to Old Street – 7 minutes.

From King’s Cross/St Pancras

Take the Northern Line, southbound on the Bank branch. Journey time to Old Street – 5 minutes.

From Paddington

Paddington (H&C Line) Underground Station

Take the Hammersmith & City Line towards  Barking, or Circle Line towards Edgware Road. Change at Moorgate, then take the Northern Line northbound for one stop. Journey time to Old Street – 25 minutes.

From Waterloo

Take the Jubilee Line, eastbound towards Stratford. Change at London Bridge, then take the Northern Line northbound. Journey time to Old Street – 15 minutes.

List of buses that stop near the venue

21, 76, 141, 271. – all stop at Old Street Stn/Moorfields Eye Hospital (Stop D) – a 5 minute walk from the venue.

Venue map