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Newsvine Brings the Social to MSNBC

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Big news in the social-media space: MSNBC has acquired Newsvine, a pioneering news community that has been somewhat eclipsed by Digg and other sites in terms of public profile over the past year or two, but has continued to grow and prosper outside of the spotlight. Newsvine was founded in 2005 by Mike Davidson and a number of other former Disney Group and ESPN staffers, and was arguably ahead of its time in terms of design and interactivity.

I haven’t written about Newsvine in quite a while, but I was impressed by the service when I first tried it out during the beta trials last year, and I am even more impressed by how they have managed to grow and yet stay focused on their core principles — and done so while taking only $1.5-million in funding, as Mike Arrington points out. That is a model that other Web 2.0 companies would be wise to follow.

For MSNBC, the acquisition accomplishes something obvious: it allows the news site to incorporate social and community features without having to develop them itself. For Newsvine, it most likely solves the issue of ongoing funding, and gives the site a much larger community to draw from when it comes to interactivity, and more exposure for the writers that the site has developed.

Rex Sorgatz, who is not only executive producer of MSNBC.com but also the proprietor of the excellent Fimoculous blog, has some thoughts about the deal that are well worth reading. As he puts it:

“[Big media] needs fixing, now more than ever. And fixing it is about finding its roots — news as conversation, as a network, as a platform. By reconstituting media as participation, Newsvine suddenly makes news fun and engaging again.”

I have to agree with Rex, who has also worked for big media for a decade or so: big media is hard. It is resistant to change — and even when it does decide to move, it does so at a glacial pace, for a whole pile of reasons. Many mainstream news sites are trying to incorporate more social features, but it’s not something that comes easily, or instinctively. If buying Newsvine can help MSNBC do some more of that, then more power to them.

MSNBC’s story on the acquisition is here, and Mike Davidson’s thoughts on the deal are here. Rafat Ali at PaidContent says that his guesstimate of the purchase price is between $5-million and $7-million, and Richard MacManus has some perspective on the acquisition at Read/Write Web. More coverage and opinion in the New York Times, at Jeremy Wagstaff’s Loose Wire blog (where he talks about the thorny issue of compensation for “user-generated content”), at Newsroomnext and at ParisLemon.

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