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 concept.

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

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
  • Pension time bomb myth or reality
  • Low pass
  • Slide
  • Sunday Times
  • Syria: The road from Damascus to hell
  • Source
  • 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

Announcing speakers at Build The News

We’re pleased to announce a range of speakers who’ll be attending Build The News.

Alan Hunter – Head of Digital, The Times & The Sunday Times

Nicola Ryan – Digital Design Editor, The Times

Nicola Ryan is the Digital Design Editor for The Times. She’s responsible for the design of The Times’ digital output, from the daily edition through to the future development of The Times’ digital products. She has a background in information design, branding and user experience architecture.

Ben Whitelaw – Head of Community Development at The Times and The Sunday Times

Ben Whitelaw engages with readers in comments and on social media as well as helping journalists become familiar with new digital tools. He worked at The Guardian before moving to The Times in November 2011 and is co-founder of, which provides hints and tips about getting into journalism. Recently he has worked on The Times’ award-winning Cities fit for Cycling campaign, using digital tools to campaign for change.

Ben Fogarty – CEO of Shorthand

Ben is CEO of Shorthand, a platform to create longform interactive stories. Shorthand aims to simplify the process of creating ambitious digital stories, and has worked with The Guardian and ESPN.

Jonathan Frost – CEO of Liveblog Pro

Jonathan is CEO of Liveblog Pro, a liveblogging platform. He has a background in design and manages all areas of the Liveblog Pro business. The platform offers free and paid tiers, with commercial partners including Politics Home and digital sports agency Sotic.

Peter MacRobert – Founder of Pixie Labs

Pixie Labs is a digital product incubator. Peter is an engineering-minded entrepreneur with a decade of experience building innovative software for blue chip brands. Some of the products built include – a viral Vine aggregator that garnered 8 million views in 24 hours, a social Bitcoin trading platform called, and a Twitter management tool called Echelon.

Category Four: Noise – the best way of finding out who’s talking


We are now in a world of participatory media – where those not professionally employed as journalists can easily contribute to the wider news ecosystem, and “commit acts of journalism”.

The effect of this on the journalistic process has been huge. In his book What Is Participatory Journalism?, J.D. Lasica categorises six distinct types of citizen journalism:

  • Audience participation (Commenting, personal blogs, photos or videos taken from mobile phones, or local news written by a community of residents)
  • Independent news and information websites
  • Participatory news sites
  • Collaborative and contributory media sites
  • Other kinds of “thin media” (mailing lists, email newsletters)
  • Personal broadcasting sites

With this volume of content coming from the public sphere – journalists need to know how to sift through it and include these contributions in their stories. What’s the best way of doing that?

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

  • Verification – is there an opportunity to create a platform to aid in online verification?
  • Filtering – UGC is taken from dozens of social media services. How can a journalist filter through the noise?
  • Location – how can you monitor a region for content from the crowd?
  • Licencing – once you’ve got hold of content, is there a way to effectively licence it?


One Twitter User Reports Live From Osama Bin Laden Raid

Storyful: Verifying images

Poynter: The 11 stages of citizen journalism

We’re full! Almost…

We’ve had a great response to Build The News from universities across the UK, and with four weeks to go until the event we’ve sold out of our initial run of 45 student places.

However – we do understand that there’s been interest from students who weren’t able to get a place in the original batch of tickets, so we’ve set up a waiting list.

So far there’s one team on the list – and we can make provisions for one more before we’re completely full. So if you’re interested in coming to Build The News, put your name down on the waiting list in the next 24 hours and we’ll be in touch. After Friday we can’t take any more attendees, so get in there fast.

We’ll also be publishing our final category post later today, and there’s already several resources that we’ve posted to help you out with ideas and inspiration ahead of the day.

Category Three: Tactile – Reinvent the Sunday paper


Sunday papers have traditionally provided a hefty amount of writing and journalism for those who want to sit down and absorb the week in news. Colour supplements, a news review, interviews, high quality photography and more are put into a distinct package at the end of the week and normally make those who buy them groan under the weight of carrying them home from the newsagent.

But now the idea of buying Sunday paper may feel quaint. Circulation is down year on year across all Sunday titles, and news consumption on the web seems to have moved to a model where the homepage is becoming irrelevant.

In this kind of climate, how does the Sunday paper stay relevant? Is there room for more edition-based apps that seek to emulate the traditional Sunday morning reading experience or does everything need to change?

If you’re thinking of taking on this category at Build The News (we’re now operating a waiting list for potential attendees), you need to think about:

  • Whether traditional sections are relevant any more, and why.
  • How you handle sharing different sections of the paper.
  • Whether you provide any digital extras to those reading the hard copy of the paper
  • How to deliver such a large amount of content to readers on all platforms.