Citizen News Site Becomes MSNBC.com’s First Purchase

Newsvine, a “participatory news” site that allows people to write articles, link to mainstream news stories, discuss the news, and earn money by writing their own ad-sponsored columns, is now owned by MSNBC.com.

The year-and-a-half-old, Seattle-based company becomes the first acquisition for MSNBC Interactive News. It will continue as an independent brand, but MSNBC.com will have access to its “full suite of community product features,” it said a statement announcing the deal. The companies declined to comment on the ad implications of the deal or on the integration of their two sales operations, citing the newness of the deal.

Anybody can write content for Newsvine or create a page that includes links to news stories they find interesting, and the site promises to pay the columnists 90 percent of all ad revenue generated from their pages.

In a Sunday message describing the acquisition to Newsvine members, the Newsvine blog insisted the platform will remain independent. “MSNBC.com is committed to maintaining and growing the community and features that have made Newsvine what it is today,” said the entry. “In other words, Newsvine will be the same Newsvine you’ve always known, only stronger.”

The official statement announcing the deal said combining MSNBC.com’s assets and tools with those at Newsvine will not only give users a better news experience but will also “enable advertisers to interact with consumers in new ways.”

Federated Media, which sells ads on a CPM basis to run on Newsvine, charges CPMs of between $10 and $20 for various IAB-standard display ads and $455 per week for flat-rate text ads.

In his personal Newsvine blog, Newsvine co-founder Calvin Tang said the revenue-sharing arrangement with the site’s users “will continue in its present form for the time being,” and if that changes, he said, it will not be as a result of the MSNBC.com deal. Tang said he has met with the top executives at MSNBC.com and is convinced “that everyone over there is extremely sensitive to altering the very properties that make Newsvine what it is.”

News of the acquisition drew mixed reactions from Newsvine writers who discussed it online at the site. One, Áine MacDermot, questioned whether she wanted to “spend time working for an MSNBC-owned site” which, she suggested, would be “like giving them free labor.”

MacDermot said she doesn’t earn much in ad revenue from Newsvine. During 21 months of work, the income still doesn’t even cover her ISP bill.

Another writer said earnings could go up “because ad sales might instead be done through the MSNBC sales force [and] that could mean better ad rates and better total ad sales.” This would mean fewer empty ad spaces across the site, so Newsvine contributors’ work and article seeds “might attract a great deal more revenue than they have before now.”

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