Tag Archives: NBC Limited

When Old Media Buys a Community

MSNBC, owned by MSN and NBC, has bought Newsvine, a sort of citizen journalism, blogging and news-sharing site. But who stands to lose from the deal, and what does it tell us about the equity of Web 2.0?

One commenter on the page that announces the news hits the nail firmly on the head:

In the end I feel dejected, sad and I guess just a little like we should have seen this one coming. What, pray tell is going to happen to OUR huge sums of ad revenue? I mean you guys are making mad loot out of this deal, what about our money?

The deal was cash, but terms were not disclosed.

It’s one of the unresolved paradoxes of Web 2.0 (and citizen journalism): How do you reward those who make a website like Newsvine what it is? Or at least, how do you avoid making them feel hopelessly exploited?

This from Calvin Tang, a co-founder of Newsvine:

I personally would like to thank all Newsvine users who have helped make Newsvine what it is – the most vibrant and active community of users on the digital news media landscape. In addition to being one of the most powerful and unique publishing platforms on the web – the open dialogues, the free and creative expression of ideas and the genuine manner in which all of you participate on the site are some of the foremost reasons that msnbc.com found Newsvine to be an attractive company to partner with.

To be fair, Tang does point to the possibility of “an adjustment to the way contributors are compensated based on suggestions from users.” It’s not clear what this is: At the moment anyone with their own “column” on Newsvine gets 90% of ad revenue derived from visitors to that page. And all content is owned by the person who creates it.

Newsvine is actually hugely popular among those who use it: about 1.2 million unique visitors per month, according to Read/Write Web, and growing at an average rate of 46% per quarter. The site, R/WW says, gets about 80,000 comments and 250,000 votes a month. That’s pretty good traffic in a couple of years.

But still there’s the nagging feeling that money is being made on the backs of others. If all those producing the work were interested only in wider exposure, then the MSNBC deal is good — lots of opportunities for their writings to be read by a wider audience.

From the comments a lot of Newsvine users feel a sense of loyalty and protectiveness towards the site and its founders. And although it’s obvious that the best exit strategy for a site like this is to be bought out by a bigger player, probably one in old media, the illusion that something like Newsvine is an antidote to old media is an important one to maintain; how many, otherwise, would expend effort and time contributing for free if they felt the primary goal of the site was to get bought out?

Money is probably of little consequence to most of those using Newsvine. They’re more interested in the satisfaction that comes from “owning” a community. But inevitably money changes the equation: it is that very community, not the site per se, that has attracted MSNBC’s dollars. Should not the community, therefore, be entitled to some of that money?

Of course, the community itself, by not being party to the discussions with MSNBC nor beholden to the deal, can just up sticks and leave if it doesn’t like the outcome. And that’s where the other illusion kicks in: MSNBC can’t buy the community, although it may feel it has. It can buy the site where that community has built its camp. Make the wrong moves, not make enough moves, or fail to spread the wealth, and it may wake up one morning to find the camp has faded away in the night.

Newsvine – Msnbc.com Acquires Newsvine

How To Scoop The U.S. Press Corps

Perhaps we journalists need better tools to find out the stories we’re looking for.

According to Ed Cone, a posting on an aviation website late on Monday may have been the first evidence of the Kerry/Edwards tie-up: A poster to the US Airways forum called ‘aerosmith’ said he/she had spotted John Kerry’s plane in a Pittsburgh hangar, where “John Edwards’ decals were being put on engine cowlings and upper fuselage”. The time: 9:44 PM. (11.45 PM EDT)

Unfortunately the poster, a US Airways employee called Bryan Smith, wasn’t allowed to take a photo, which would have erased any doubt, but confirmation appeared to come from another poster, ‘Prince of PAWOBs’ (PAWOB, in flying lingo is a Passenger Arriving With Out Bag), who posted a few hours later that he/she had heard “North Ramp control on 130.775 Mhz talking to another aircraft about it tonight”.

Ironically, within a few hours The New York Post was hitting the streets with its own ‘scoop’ about Gephardt. The first mainstream journalist to report Kerry’s correct selection was Andrea Mitchell on NBC’s “Today” show at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday — eight hours after aerosmith’s posting. Here are AP’s version and UPI’s version of the aerosmith story.

There’s a lot of talk about blogs being the Next Journalism, and I for one believe that that is how a lot of folk are going to get, already getting, their news. It’s a great development, and I don’t worry that people get wrong information: Time will weed out the good stuff from the bad. But maybe there’s a broader lesson here, especially for us journalists. There are other ways to research stories and find scoops than the obvious political channels and sources. This time around it was an obscure website for flying enthusiasts.