Sean Sperte

Newsvine: This changes everything

05 January 2006

Back in November Mike Davidson announced what he’d been up to since leaving Disney’s media group and starting his own business. Newsvine, he said, was to be the new hotness in news, “just like your favorite news site, only smarter.” I have been (extremely) fortunate to be able to participate in the beta launch of Newsvine for the past few weeks and let me tell you … it lives up to the hype. News hasn’t been the same for me lately.

What Newsvine does right

The way Newsvine makes news smarter is by giving control to the readers. This is done by enabling voting, live chat, and comment systems for every article (and seed, a submitted link to an external article). It sounds more simple than it is. But it sounds less powerful than it is, too. The potential this type of interaction has is truly culture-shocking – we may soon witness a shift in the way journalism is approached.

“We believe in turning news into conversation,” Mike says. “It is only when readers interact with it that it achieves its full impact.” The life of a news story only comes from those who read it. No readers, no life. That’s what makes the current news medium so lifeless and Newsvine so … living. It’s the interaction, the personality, the relationship.

The power of the ‘Vine

Readers of Newsvine have the ability to create their own “column,” in which they post articles (similar to blog entries) and seed external articles. Seeding an article to the ‘Vine allows other readers the ability to view the article, comment on the seed, vote for it, discuss it in a chat room, add tags, and more.

On the front page of Newsvine (above the fold), news is displayed based on user activity, popularity, and post time. Only the most relevant stories are displayed; making the news seem more “living,” even before you read it. It feels revolutionary, really.

I’ve had similar feelings before, but never in relationship to news – it’s been with things like iTunes, text messaging, wireless internet, real-time playback of uncompressed video. News, to me, is usually always boring. I’m much more of a skimmer: You know, glance at the headline, skim the text for relevancy, check out the photos … I’m definitely not the news-hound. With Newsvine, though, the news is living and current.

Of course, there’s a lot more to Newsvine; so much, in fact that you have to see it to understand. Which brings us to …

The public beta

Today marked the first (okay, maybe the second) major public release of Newsvine, as they opened the doors for thousands who’d been on the waiting list. In addition, each user was given the ability to invite 20 other people to join in the beta. The Newsvine team says they’ve spent the last few weeks preparing their servers and systems for such an event – which is sure to bring huge amounts of hits and strain on the network. So far (tonight), though, the site’s snappy and fresh; like always.

My sincere hope is that they pull it off, and Newsvine does become the new hotness. Not only is the concept and execution really cool, but the guys who are behind it are genuine … and, well, local: They’re located right here in Seattle!

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