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Offering free access to journalism and paying reporters at the same time is a challenge with no single, clear-cut answer in the digital age.

That's one problem open journalism start-up The News Hub, who will be turning six months old this month, set out to address last year.

Founder William Stolerman said the platform is an "alternative to all the sites that expect content for free – the vast majority of blogging platforms where you're on your own, you have to market your work yourself, you get no feedback, you don't get paid for it".

The News Hub covers news, life, and sport, and stories within each section are further divided into categories, such as politics or business under news for example.

It pays $30 (£20) for every story that gets to the top of its category as well as $150 (£100) as a bonus for the platform's top contributors – based on the community's votes – each month.

And after receiving a £350,000 angel investment last year, Stolerman plans to increase the top story fees to $50.

But The News Hub doesn't decide what its contributors write about or who gets paid, as stories are 'upvoted' or 'downvoted' by readers.

So how does it ensure a standard of quality on the site?

Stolerman told the voting system The News Hub has had in place since launch has worked on the whole.

"Generally our best contributors and the best content gets paid for, generally the best content makes its way up to the top of the trending feed," he said.

Covering breaking news

But one challenge of being an open journalism start-up is the lack of control over which stories ultimately get covered.

"News can break, and we can put suggestions for our contributors and say: 'Hey, do you fancy covering this?'.

"But unlike a traditional newsroom where you just turn to the person next to you and say 'get something on this in two hours', we don't have that level of control."

The News Hub has been focusing on analysis and comment for this reason, but Stolerman said more breaking news stories are posted as contributors become familiar with the site and know they can publish in real time.

He said there are stories The News Hub does not cover "because of the nature of the beast", a reflection of the open model it uses use to source contributions.

If no contributors decide to write about a particular topic or area, that story will of course not appear on the site.

"But this list of stories is getting smaller and smaller," Stolerman explained.

"[And] every traditional publication, they miss stories because they have a certain amount of resources, and they make a decision."

While the lack of editorial control may mean The News Hub does not cover certain stories, it also means contributors can write about an issue from a variety of angles, said Stolerman

"People can see both sides of an argument, we don't have an editorial agenda," he added.

Building a community

As The News Hub's model relies heavily on its community, Stolerman said he has put a lot of resources into finding journalists interested in contributing.

"We now have a team of full time community managers who cover all the different sections," he explained.

Each section – news, life, and sport – also has its own newsletter, set up at the end of January to offer an "overview of the news agenda" to contributors.

A periodical increase in fees paid for the best articles, which were originally $10, is another key part of Stolerman's plan to grow the community, and an area of future investment alongside the technology behind the platform.

"You want to be in a position where people can genuinely make a living from The News Hub," he said.

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