Across much of the western world, news organisations are in a fight for their life. Between Google 'stealing' their news and bloggers 'stealing their readers', things are not well in the land of news. The next challenge to news's authority is a 19-year-old kid from the Netherlands.
Typically the bigger the organisation the more difficult it is to innovate. Innovation will happen, but it's often glacial. So while these now-fledgling organisations are trying to re-invent their entire business, Michael van Poppel has redefined what it means to "break news" with just a Twitter account and a lot of drive.
Over at ReadWriteWeb they put together a long piece about BreakingNewsOn's rise to fame. This paragraph pretty well sums up how he's become the go-to for breaking news on Twitter:
In September 2007, when seventeen years old and living in the Netherlands, van Poppel decided to launch a news aggregation business called Breaking News Online. Months later, somehow, he came into possession of a full video of an Osama Bin Laden statement before any of the major news outlets had it, and sold it to Reuters.
At the time of writing this, their Twitter profile @BreakingNews has amassed more than 824,000 followers. Some may say that's not an impressive number considering New York Times' profile has 1.3 million followers, and CNN's has 2.2 million followers. True, but consider that BreakingNewsOn is not a corporation. It's just a bunch of volunteers who break news as soon as they can.
That's what's important here.
For any company, the Michael's of the world are a scary thing. They do what you can do, but a lot cheaper and a lot faster. In addition to keeping tabs on competitors, now organisations must stay aware of those who are innovating in their sphere of influence.
More from the RWW article:
Since then, BNO has added editors in the United States, Ireland and Mexico to its team. The team watches news wires closely for important updates, exercises their own brand of editorial judgment in deciding what to push out through their various distribution channels and then they push it out fast.
Adding to the threat is the announcement that BreakingNewsOn will release a push iPhone application in August:
BNO News is excited to announce it will soon use Apple's 'push notification' to send breaking news alerts to its users around the world. The application is expected to be launched in the week of August the 3rd and our users have already showed a lot of interest in such an application. Plans to expand this service to other platforms such as the BlackBerry are being considered.
The iPhone application industry, yes it's officially an industry, is a crowded field, so it's possible that the interest from Twitter users won't carry over to iPhone. It's priced at $1.99. But even if every one of their 824,000 followers does not download it, getting a percentage of them to would be a great revenue stream for the organisation.
Most recently, the company scooped the entire mainstream media - and the internet - by reporting that former-National Football League quarterback Steve McNair had been shot.
I was using Twitter when this popped up in my Twitter feed. I promptly went to Google and it was dark. No word of anything. Naturally I skeptical. Almost an hour later, word began to appear on the Associated Press wire service. By the time that happened, BNO had already updated the story a few times.
I can only hope that there are many more Michael's out in the world, eager to change the status quo in whatever industry they're targeting. They're needed now more than ever.