MySpace News Service Appearing Imminent

Almost a year to the day following the acquisition by Fox Interactive Media of startup social news aggregation service Newroo, the company appears to be gearing up to integrate it with a certain service it acquired since that time. After a blog post last week in which celebrated former local TV news director Terry Heaton cited industry insiders as revealing FIM's intention to preparing to launch a MySpace news portal around Newroo technology in the second quarter, FIM officials this morning - very clearly and ostentatiously - declined comment.

This as the parent company's careers site today actively advertises for positions such as a software engineer for its Newroo Labs project, describing it in the same paragraph with MySpace as providing "social interaction and communication around user's personal interests relating to news."

When Newroo was acquired last year, it was serving as an online news aggregation service similar in principle to Google News, except that members were capable of contributing to the dissemination process. As a result, Newroo members' customized pages could contain not only selectable content by subject or context, but also active discussions related to those subjects.

FIM's purchase of Newroo was celebrated in some quarters, and criticized in others, for having pre-empted any venture capital backing for Newroo, which would have presumably substantiated its takeover value. Did FIM know what it was getting and what it's getting into, analysts asked?

Apparently, the answer to both questions is "yes," as indicated by this citation from Heaton's blog, which appears to have come from FIM promotional material: "MySpace users previously had to leave the site to find comprehensive news, gossip, sporting news, etc. With MySpace News, we bring the news to them!"

Heaton, whose blog addresses local television producers and newspaper editors, wrote last week, "Now it doesn't take a genius to figure out that this is not good news for those of us in the news business, unless we view it as another way to get our content onto yet another platform." The implication here is similar to some of the early comments at the time Google News was announced: Somebody else's platform could be capitalizing on true news producers' content, and at the producers' expense.

As it turned out, many online news sites actually rely on Google News for as much as one-third of their incoming traffic. In some cases, more readers reach an online article via Google News' front page than from the article publisher's own home page. The convenience of a centralized provider is the key to its success.

However, since MySpace attracts a far younger audience, the characteristics of the readers its news service will direct to news providers' sites may be somewhat different. From a research perspective, Heaton believes, it may be helpful for local news providers to inexpensively determine what type and flavor of news younger readers prefer.

But there's an implication that this "flavor" could bleed into online news content and subtly adjust the way it's edited and produced, in a parallel fashion to how many sites carefully adjust the phraseology of their articles' headlines to help weight them amongst Google News' aggregator. If general news sites started openly fishing for MySpace News' audience, imagine how their headlines could become fine-tuned yet again.

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