The New York Times wants you to help identify old newspaper ads

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Sean Buckley
October 15th, 2014
The New York Times wants you to help identify old newspaper ads

Unless you're clipping coupons, advertisements are the last thing you look for when you pick up the newspaper. They're also the part of the New York Times archives that the newspaper wants you to look at the most, but not just for the sake of revenue. Madison, a new project from the New York Times' research and development lab seeks to document the paper's long history of advertising by crowdsourcing its advertisement identification project. That is, asking the public to view archives of old papers and sort out if a specific section of a paper is an ad, who it is advertising for, and to help transcribe the text.

If you've ever filled out Capcha words to prove your human, you've gone through a similar process: Hive, the NYT's crowdsourcing platform, serves the user a highlighted image of an archived newspaper page and asks them specific questions, like identify how many ads are in the selection, for instance. There's a fun "ranking system," too: as you identify ads, Madison bestows you with new pseudo-prestigious titles -- in just a few minutes I went from being a "reader" to a "finder." Neat. The project is starting with ads from the 1960s as a nod to Mad Men, apparently, but will be extending the program to cover other periods soon.

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