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The Guardian talks about why it is launching a mobile news lab

June 16, 2015, 9:46 PM UTC
Photograph by Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Guardian, which has grown from being just another regional British newspaper into one of the largest news websites in the world, announced recently that it is launching a mobile journalism lab based out of its U.S. office. The project, which is funded by a $2.6-million grant from the Knight Foundation, will involve researching different ways of delivering the news and engaging with readers via their mobile devices.

In its news release, the paper said it would “assemble a multidisciplinary editorial and production team that includes designers, developers and reporters and embed it within its news operations.” In addition to helping the U.S. unit do better at mobile, the Guardian said its team will “look at ways of engaging readers in storytelling in real time and at advancing citizen participation.”

In keeping with the policy of “open journalism” that former editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger made one of the paper’s core principles, The Guardian said all of the data and research from the project will be shared with the public and other media outlets, including any prototypes or tools developed by the team.

I wanted to know a little bit more about what The Guardian had in mind for this project, so Fortune asked Lee Glendinning, the editor in charge of the paper’s U.S. operation. What follows are her responses via email:

How did this project come about?

The Guardian and the Knight Foundation share a commitment to promoting journalism through innovation across platforms and through technology. We thought that, as a whole, the media industry still doesn’t know enough about what works and what doesn’t on mobile, so the aim of this project is about experimenting with how journalism can evolve on mobile platforms, and then sharing the results of our experiments for the benefit of the wider news industry.

How many staff will be involved in the project?

There will be a dedicated team working full-time on this project, based in our New York newsroom. The lab will include engineers and developers, as well as reporters, designers and production staff. It’s too early to confirm exact numbers, we’ll be working through the structure and resource requirements in the initial weeks of the project.

What specifically will the team be doing?

That’s exactly the sort of question we’re going to be working through in the coming days and weeks. The ambition of the lab is to challenge our thinking and to experiment as much as possible so we’re not limiting ourselves to anything specific at this point. The lab will also play a critical role in The Guardian’s wider mobile strategy and innovation efforts, and will work with our global teams to integrate learnings from our existing partnerships such as Facebook Instant Articles and the new Apple ‘News’ app.

How it will the data be made transparent?

We’ll aim to share our learnings and data through a dedicated blog, similar to, where we shared updates about the open redesign of our website. We’ll also work with third parties to establish and test methodologies and to disseminate our findings to the wider news industry.

Why does The Guardian see this as important?

Currently, over half our traffic comes from people using a mobile device and the shift to mobile has already had huge implications for the ways we think about our our journalism, because it signals not simply a change in platform but a fundamental shift in reader behaviour. So we think it’s important to explore how the rise of mobile might require the rethinking of journalistic processes across the board, including news gathering, reporting, publishing and citizen engagement.

What affect will this have on the industry?

We hope our experiments within the lab, and the learnings and data we will share, will encourage the wider industry to lean and adopt new ways of working and new tools to tell stories in more compelling and engaging ways on mobile.