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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.

Ben LaMothe

Published 17 July, 2009 by Ben LaMothe

Ben LaMothe is a web & social media strategist with Florida-based advertising and marketing consultancy Renaissance Creative. You can follow him on Twitter.

22 more posts from this author

Comments (8)

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Ambarish Mitra

Its phenomenal how the common user has become the breaking news journalist. These are signs to true infomation economy. Everyone has a say and  the power to share it.

about 7 years ago

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Josh

Bravo to Michael etc, but my main problem is the lack of sources and authenticity. I just don't trust a tweet from a single source without link to any further info or background.

And that is where seasoned news agencies will retain their edge.

about 7 years ago

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Andrew Martin, Online Manager at CBM UK

I think that at 19, he's not a 'kid' anymore.

about 7 years ago

Ben LaMothe

Ben LaMothe, Web & Social Media Strategist at Renaissance Creative

Hi Andrew, thanks for your comment. 

I had that thought as well. But since he still is, technically, a teen-ager, I thought that calling him a "kid" worked for the point I was trying to make.

about 7 years ago

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Mark Ranzenberger

Actually, newspapers lost the breaking news game to broadcast about 70 years ago. The culture of daily print publications have been more attuned, for generations, to permit (because they had no choice) competitors to break stories, with newspapers following up with context and depth. Broadcast, when it was limited to a few channels, did not have the ability to provide real depth.

Now, in a 500-channel universe, broadcast has some capability to provide depth, but mostly provides noise. (How many times did Fox play the clip of Michael Jackson catching fire?)

The difference is clear in the contrast of intensity between broadcast and print newsrooms. Broadcast cultivates speed, attitude and style. Print, for as long as I can remember, has had a much more deliberative, studied approach, with time to argue about shades of meaning, grammar, style, and of course, accuracy. Make one more phone call - it's not 5 o'clock yet.

Print-based news organizations cannot lose that, but also must focus on developing a culture of speed - and style. Print journalists must be ready to "go live" if they are to succeed, and broadcasters must be ready to provide real depth if they are to survive.

about 7 years ago

Ben LaMothe

Ben LaMothe, Web & Social Media Strategist at Renaissance Creative

Hi Mark:

I should have been more clear in the post. I was referring to the breaking news game on the web. Newspapers were slow to evolve their web presences, and as a result have been scooped by small-timers with the drive to quickly innovate.

One criticism of BreakingNewsOn is that they don't do any original reporting. At first I agreed, but after coming back to the comment again, I realized that may not be the case. With the death of Steve McNair, no one was reporting it anywhere. It took MSM 30-40 minutes to catch up. There are news events happening outside of the Western world that BreakingNewsOn covers much, much quicker than CNN,NYT and others. 

On the Web, the first big battle for web news supremacy has been won. The war, however, continues.

about 7 years ago

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Aloysius Carl

The web and technology have taken away many of the advantages that used to be enjoyed by large media corporations and have turned the power to the masses. 

I'm surprised that you didn't mention that twitter users have broken the news on several California earthquakes over the news media, not to mention celebrity sightings, etc.  Also, many reporters are siting celebrity twitter comments in their news articles.  Don't they understand the more they are relying on twitter and the new social web the less we need them?

about 7 years ago

Ben LaMothe

Ben LaMothe, Web & Social Media Strategist at Renaissance Creative

Hi Aloysius:

You make a good point about Twitter users taking it upon themselves to report things going on around them. In retrospect I should have given that a mention.

I think what MSM outlets are doing by including Twitter in their reporting is, they're trying to find a seat at that table, trying to be part of that discussion.

Print remains king, however their influence is fleeting. They're trying to elbow their way into the next generation of news by embracing the new, even if it's begrudgingly.

about 7 years ago

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