Why We Bought Newsvine
For those who haven't heard the news: we announced our purchase of Newsvine today. (Mike Davidson's post | msnbc.com story.)
Despite working on this deal for several months now, the exhilaration that one feels when turning the corner to see the future has not dissipated. But the thrill has transformed into a new kind of obsession: thinking about how news deserves to be a better experience -- better to create, better to share, better to participate in.
You can read elsewhere about the details of the deal, but the gist is this: we plan to leave Newsvine alone -- learn from it, integrate little pieces of it, watch it grow. The site will continue to run independently with Mike at the helm; meanwhile, we will incrementally find sensible ways to integrate the "social thinking" of Newsvine into the "big media thinking" of MSNBC.com.
I'm convinced that Newsvine represents a different way of thinking about traditional media -- as merger of gathering, interacting, and consuming. By positing news as an ecosystem rather than a hierarchy, the philosophy of Newsvine is actually an old one. News has always been conversational, but only recently have we begun to rediscover the tools to bring it back to its networked mode. Mike and his team have built an amazing site, and we are excited to turn some of our large audience onto it.
For me personally, it's a moment I have been anticipating for years: seeing how a big news outlet can interact with its audience, how it can learn from its audience, how it can cede control to its audience. And ultimately, how "audience" isn't even the right word anymore.
I've been working for big media for over a dozen years now. And to be honest, I am always close to giving up. While all my nouveau riche Silicon Valley friends cash in their start-ups, I've been preparing the epitaph on my days working in this industry: "Mainstream media is hard."
This is certainly not breaking news, but the media industry is hemorrhaging. As the differences between "big" and "small" media continue to crumble, I cling to the corny, nostalgic philosophy that mainstream news is still a crucial part of democracy, binding us together in ineffable ways. If you've ever worked for a big media company, you know this is not an easy philosophy to maintain. You get bitter, you get depressed, you drink a lot, you have an infinite string of two-month relationships (ahem).
Because big media is hard. And no matter what you do, no matter how much you try to fix it, the media industry still moves slowly. Why? Because the media world has lost its faith, abandoned its roots, absconded the throne. And proving that an empire is its own worst enemy, media companies seem determined to kill themselves, slowly and painfully, pointing fingers at non-existent enemies as they go down.
Which is why it 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.
For the first time in a long time, I'm actually optimistic about the prospects. Maybe media doesn't need to be so hard after all.
Rex Sorgatz is the Executive Producer of MSNBC.com. This blog has, like, nothing to do with that.