Today Newsvine CEO Mike Davidson contacted Read/WriteWeb to announce that his citizen journalism startup Newsvine has been acquired by MSNBC, the Microsoft/NBC joint venture, for an undisclosed sum. Davidson told us that “Newsvine will continue operating independently, just as it has been since launching in March of 2006.” He also indicated there would be little change in the features of the site — which is great news, because in our review of Newsvine in July, we noted that Newsvine “is probably more advanced in its design than other CJ [Citizen Journalism] sites, often trying new things and design techniques.” Indeed I can’t wait to see how MSNBC integrates some of the Newsvine features, which Davidson said will occur: “Over the next few years, Newsvine technology and content will make its way onto msnbc.com, and vice-versa where it makes sense.”

Newsvine officially became part of MSNBC on Friday, October
5th, but Davidson said they’d “been talking since May.” The company will continue to be based in Seattle, the home of MSNBC.

What is MSNBC getting, other than a slick and feature-packed website? Newsvine is also a thriving Citizen Journalism community, with solid stats. In our July review of Newsvine, we noted that Newsvine gets about 1.2 million unique visitors per month and it has grown at an average rate of 46% per quarter. Newsvine community members view an average of 21 pages per day and spend an average of 143 minutes per month on the site. The site gets about 80,000 comments a month and 250,000 votes a month.

The explanation of why Newsvine sold to MSNBC, from Davidson, makes interesting reading. It is all about scale and partnering with MSM to achieve that:

“Why would a young, efficient independent news startup become part of
a large organization? For us, the answer is simple: it’s all about
growing the community and spreading the idea of participatory news as
far and wide as possible. Although going from zero to over a million
users a month in less than two years is heartening, msnbc.com
operates on another scale entirely. While Newsvine may be well known
in early adopter circles, we want every college student, every
farmer, every weekend journalist, and every household to have their
own branch on the ‘Vine. In order to spread this idea further, we
could have gone out and raised a lot of money, quadrupled our staff,
and gone it alone, but when one of the finest news organizations in
the world is headquartered right across Lake Washington, the
potential of partnering with such a great team is dramatic. We feel
strongly that we can learn from the successes of their experienced
team, in a way that will empower Newsvine to become the worldwide
mouthpiece of the citizen journalist.”

For a deeper understanding of the attraction of Newsvine to MSNBC, check out our review of Newsvine in July – which also doubled as an introduction into The State of Citizen Journalism. Here is an extract:

Citizen Journalism (henceforth CJ) is a classic example of the
read/write web in action. In a product sense, it is a news publication built
using the voices and recommendations of ordinary citizens, or ‘users’ in Web-speak. The readers are the
writers and editors, unlike traditional journalism which is written/edited by the ‘few’ (professional
journalists) for the ‘many’ (consumers). […]

Newsvine is a good example of a startup CJ site
aiming to be a mainstream news destination. Along with most of the other current CJ
sites, Newsvine uses many of the tenets of ‘web 2.0’ in its design – such as
user-generated content, reputation, voting, comments, friends lists, tags, and more. It
allows users to ‘seed’ stories, by adding a link and short description. Or users can
write a full article. Newsvine is probably more advanced in its design than other CJ
sites, often trying new things and design techniques – e.g. the Newsvis, a color-coded
visual representation of a user’s impact on the site.

The site opened as a private beta in December 2005 and was officially launched on
March 1, 2006. For a full feature run-down, see Read/WriteWeb’s Social News
Faceoff
last October – which has a chart of features for Newsvine and three other
sites (digg, reddit, netscape). As Alex Iskold noted in that post, Newsvine has an
outstanding user interface – it illustrates that a lot of features and a lot of
information can be presented in a simple and digestible way.

Check out Read/WriteWeb’s Newsvine review for more stats and analysis. Allen Stern also has some slides from Newsvine’s FOWA presentation last year.