Friday, January 27, 2006

Newsvine: A New Type of News Site

My thanks goes out to Amber MacArthur for sending me an invite to the Newsvine beta. You may want to also check out Amber's recent interview with Mike Davidson, CEO of Newsvine, on her podcast Inside the Net. Amber hosts a few podcasts that I will review at a later date, and has also hosted several tech television shows.

I am not sure where to start. Let me first say that Newsvine is still closed to the public, and they are doing something similar to what Google did with GMail where you can invite others to join. Even so, the CEO Mike Davidson says that without any advertising they still hit 100,000 page views on the very first day. He claims that the closed beta was meant to slowly the system with a smaller load, but this also seems to have created the buzz. If you don't have an invite, you can see some screen shots that have been posted by various people to Flickr.

So what is it? Is it a news site, or a blog? Is it community driven, or driven my major media? The answer is, a little bit of both. Newsvine subscribes to both the Associated Press and ESPN, and posts the news to their site. The first difference is that they don't filter the news, they just tag it and post it. When news came today of earthquake in Indonesia, CNN only had a red banner indicating "breaking news", while Newsvine was already had the story available. In all fairness to CNN, they did have the same story posted in a timely manner, but the fact remains that they were beat to the punch.

Once the news is posted, you as a user, can comment on the article, or even join a chat room about the article (although I have yet to find people chatting). Again, back to the earthquake story, I now find a post from "shannon" who called some friends in the area.
"I called some friends nearby and they said that it happened in the night but everyone on their part of the island was okay."
This is where Newsvine starts to pull away from the major news sites. The ability for the community to share additional information is what distinguishes Newsvine from the others.

Newsvine also provides each user with their own blog, so everyone can play reporter. They then take the best blogs and feature them on the home page of the site. This isn't meant to replace the objective reporting from the Associated Press, but instead act as editorials. Again, users can comment on these posts just like they can with any other news on the site.

With a thousand AP stories every day, the hard part is finding what you want. Newsvine makes this pretty easy by tagging each article with keywords, and then allows you to use these keywords as part of the URL. For example, want a news page dedicated to earthquakes, then go to Surprisingly there are 13 AP stories on the earthquake "page" as well as a dozen or so user submitted links. These links are called "The Vine", and are another way users can contribute by posting links to other news sites.

Sometimes these keyword specific pages aren't good enough, especially if you are interested in multiple topics. Newsvine also has a watch feature where you can add tagged sections and blogs to your watch list. You can then go to your watches page, which includes all news for everything you are interested in. The thing I really like about this is that my watch page looks just like the main Newsvine page. They do a really good job of not making your custom page look custom.

Newsvine also has a Digg-like feature, that allows you to add a higher ranking to a story. The idea being that the most important news floats to the top. You can also report a story if you feel that there is a problem with it.

I think Newsvine did a great job, and I expect that I will use their site over their news competitors. Based on the Inside the Net interview, the site is expected to become open to the public in a few weeks.

This article is cross-posted on both Newsvine and Blogger

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