In a recent deal the citizen journalism startup Newsvine has been acquired by MSNBC, the Microsoft/NBC joint venture, for an undisclosed sum.
Newsvine will continue operating independently, just as it has been since launching in March of 2006. The acquired company also indicated there would be little change in the features of the site.
Newsvine is one of the good CJ [Citizen Journalism] web sites. Others include Digg, Reddit and Netscpae’s Propeller among others. Newsvine is a good example of a startup CJ site aimed to be a mainstream news destination in the future. Along with most of the other current CJ sites, Newsvine uses many of the ‘web 2.0’ functionalities in its design – such as user-generated content, reputation, voting, comments, friends lists, tags, and more. Newsvine was among the first sites on web to implement basic semantic tagging based on the content submitted. The first site, as far as we know, was NosyJoe.com with its intelligent tagging engine. It allows users to ‘seed’ stories, by adding a link and short description. Users can also write a full article as well. Newsvine is arguably more advanced in its design than other CJ sites, often trying new things and design techniques – e.g. the Newsvine, a color-coded visual representation of a user’s impact on the site.
The site opened as a private beta in December 2005 and was officially launched on March 1, 2006. Newsvine CEO is Mike Davidson and the company is based in Seattle which is the home of MSNBC too. Calvin Tang is the Co-founder and COO. More details about Newsvine can be found below.
“Over the next few years, Newsvine technology and content will make its way onto msnbc.com, and vice-versa where it makes sense.” Davidson explained further.
Newsvine officially became part of MSNBC on Friday, October 5th, but Davidson said they’d “been talking since May.” The company will continue to be based in Seattle, perhaps due to the location of the MSNBC too.
What is MSNBC getting, anyway? Mostly the citizen journalism community and features combined with some basic (compared to MSNBC’s) traffic but representing a very loyal community. From our perspective this deal looks more like acquiring technologies, features and mostly practical experience from the citizen journalism and the social news sector. It could also be an employment through acquisition. Basically Newsvine successfully established and positioned itself especially within the social news arena yet the site cannot be clearly identified as a popular site with its only 1.2M unique visitors per month. So, MSNBC is clearly trying to tap into the social news space and is buying experience.
The following statement from the company supports out thinking:
“While Newsvine may be well known in early adopter circles, we want every college student, every farmer, every weekend journalist, and every household to have their own branch on the “Vine”.
Davidson, the Newsvine’s CEO has explained the reason why he sold out to MSNBC.
It seems it is all about scale and partnering with bigger media company to achieve that:
“Why would a young, efficient independent news startup become part of a large organization? For us, the answer is simple: it’s all about growing the community and spreading the idea of participatory news as far and wide as possible. Although going from zero to over a million users a month in less than two years is heartening, msnbc.com operates on another scale entirely. While Newsvine may be well known in early adopter circles, we want every college student, every farmer, every weekend journalist, and every household to have their own branch on the ‘Vine. In order to spread this idea further, we could have gone out and raised a lot of money, quadrupled our staff, and gone it alone, but when one of the finest news organizations in the world is headquartered right across Lake Washington, the potential of partnering with such a great team is dramatic. We feel strongly that we can learn from the successes of their experienced team, in a way that will empower Newsvine to become the worldwide mouthpiece of the citizen journalist.”
This is the MSNBC’s first acquisition in its 11-year history and is a good fit for MSNBC.com. Newsvine will report directly to the Publisher/President of MSNBC.com.
Neither of the companies would disclose terms of the all-cash transaction, but deals for other social media sites have ranged as high as the $75 million that eBay was reported to have spent for StumbleUpon.com, which claims about 3 times the number of users as Newsvine.
It appears as Newsvine will move to the server farms of MSNBC.com to allow for greater reliability and expansion.
Back in July 2007 the stat numbers were reported by the founder Mike Davidson, to be in about 1.2 million unique visitors per month and Newsvine has grown at an average rate of 46% per quarter. Newsvine community members view an average of 21 pages per day and spend an average of 143 minutes per month on the site. The site gets about 80,000 comments a month and 250,000 votes a month.
Where the site stands at today?
Quantcast is reporting for slightly over 260,000 unique visitors per month but Newsvine is not quantified there. Compete on the other side is reporting for 409,000 unique visitors. Both sites are reporting on only the American traffic.
In details about Newsvine
Newsvine is a website consisting of community-driven news stories and opinions. Users write articles and save links to external content, vote, comment and chat on article pages created by both users and by professional journalists.
Seattle-based “Newsvine, Inc.” was incorporated in March of 2005 by Calvin Tang. Mike Davidson, Lance Anderson and Mark Budos subsequently left The Walt Disney Internet Group and together began development of Newsvine during the summer of 2005, as the four co-founders of the company. Josh Yockey joined the company shortly after development began, with Tom Laramee following in the spring of 2006. Eric Glomstad joined as an intern over the summer of 2006 and has stayed on with the company since. The development team consists of several veterans from the Disney Internet Group and ESPN. Mike Davidson, CEO of Newsvine Inc. was interviewed in episode 8 of Leo Laporte and Amber MacArthur’s weekly Inside the Net podcast.
Newsvine is a community-driven news site similar to sites such as Slashdot, reddit and Digg. It combines user submission of information with items from the Associated Press and provides each user with a blog-style “column” for writing their own ‘posts’.
Newsvine allows users to “seed,” or post links for others to view. Seeds usually contain a short description or direct quotation from the linked article. With the “Newsvine Button,” users can select “Seed Newsvine” from their bookmarks and a seeding dialog will appear. Seeds allow for all of the same options as articles except the ability to insert photographs.
One of the most defining features of Newsvine is the ability for users to write their own articles. Commonly known as citizen journalism, this allows for users to express their opinions for public disccusion or even report in a journalistic manner. The most popular articles for top tags appear in the “Featured Writers” section, where article writers can receive extra publicity.
While writing articles, users are also given the ability to upload their own photographs or choose from a list of Flickr photos registered under a Creative Commons license for addition to the post. Captions can be written as well to clarify the meaning of the photograph.
Another common feature among social bookmarking websites is the ability to vote for content. Users who enjoy reading an article/seed or agree with its content are encouraged to vote for the content. Articles and seeds with the most votes appear in the “Top Wire,” “Top Seeds,” or “Top of the Vine” sections of the site.
Newsvine also allows for users to vote for comments that they enjoyed reading. This aspect of commenting encourages better content and friendly discussions. When a comment receives at least five votes, a green star is placed in the upper right-hand corner, signifying that many users enjoyed or agreed with the comment. Clicking the star will lead viewers to the next highly rated comment.
Negative votes are also registered, and a comment that receives too many negative votes will often be collapsed, so that it can only be viewed by deliberately opening it. This limits discussion under that comment, since new comments under it will not be seen automatically.
The ability to comment on seeds and articles allows for extra discussions regarding the content to take place. While debates are welcome, useless, insulting, and self-promoting comments are not. If a comment receives enough reports, that comment will be collapsed and its contents can only be shown by choosing to expand it. The Newsvine comment system also allows for threaded comments, easing the confusion of comment direction. While users do not yet have the ability to edit or delete their own comments, writers are allowed to delete comments on their own content. Unregistered users are also allowed to have their say, but comments by unregistered users are not made public until that user creates a registered account.
Newsvine user columns give users the ability to manage and share their articles, seeds, friends, recommendations, and other statistical information. Every user has one, and each is given their own subdomain to access it (<user>.newsvine.com). User columns are customizable: aspects of the layouts can be moved or hidden, a user photo and biography can be added, a header (such as a welcome message) can be added, friends can be invited to Newsvine or added to your friends list, recommendations (such as favorite books, bands, blogs, etc.) can be shown, and comments and feedback from other users can be managed. Also, through user columns, members have the ability to add others to their watchlist and friend list or to send another a chat invitation.
Newsvine tells users that they will receive 90% of ad revenue from ads on their personal Newsvine pages. These earnings are “based on traffic to your articles and seeds,” but it is unclear exactly how Newsvine calculate earnings. The remaining 10% go to whoever referred the user to Newsvine, or for site maintenance if there was no referrer. Newsvine does not publish the amount of revenue that has so far gone to users.
The Chat Lobby is a section of Newsvine that manages the various chat rooms available or open. Every article or seed on Newsvine has the ability to have a chat room created for it, where users can discuss the subject matter real-time rather than posting a comment. While this feature is not often used, the capability is there for those users that want to participate in a discussion.
If a user finds a particular writer or tag that he/she enjoys to read content from, it can be added to the Watchlist. Watchlists are lists of members and tags that a user can compile to easily find interesting news. Items on a user’s watchlist appear on the left column and, if there is content that the user has not read by a watchlisted author or tag, a number will appear next to the item name signifying how many articles or seeds have not been read.
Much like the Watchlist, the Conversation Tracker allows users to track other members. However, the Conversation Tracker is a notifier of new comments. There are three sections to the Conversation Tracker: new comments from a user’s Newsvine column, new comments from articles that a user has commented on, and new comments from an article a user’s friend has commented on. If a user has added members to the friend list that share a common interest in content, the Conversation Tracker can act as a list of recommended articles.
The Friends List gives users the ability to meet new people and find others with common interests, but there are no requirements in doing so. Creating a populated friends list gives users the ability to find interesting new articles through the Conversation Tracker. Once a user adds a friend to the list, the added friend receives a notification and is given the ability to accept or decline the offer.
Vineacity is a measure of six different elements that contribute to a Newsvine user’s overall rating as a positive influence to the Newsvine community. Earned as ‘branches’ on a Newsvine logo icon displayed next to the user’s name, the six areas of excellence include:
- Courtesy – Earned when a user’s positive feedback outweighs any abuse reports they may have received.
- Longevity – Earned when the users has been active for at least two months after registering.
- Fruitfulness – Earned when the user has submitted a substantial amount of content or comments that have received votes.
- Connectedness – Earned when the user appears on a substantial number of watch-lists and/or friend-lists.
- Random Act of Vineness – Earned for an exceptional moment of greatness on Newsvine.
- Lifetime achievement – Earned when a user has received a combined number of votes on all articles, links and comments around Newsvine.
Newsvine is known to have had only 6 employees at the time the deal was announced.
MSNBC.com is a privately run news organization started by Microsoft and NBC in 1996. The site is one of the most decorated, highly trafficked news sites on the web, serving more than 29 million unique visitors per month. Contrary to popular belief, msnbc.com is run independently from both Microsoft and NBC and even the MSNBC news channel. It is its own organization, headquartered in Redmond, and has been growing and profitable for several years now. MSNBC.com employs about 200 people.