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Here’s Why NBC News Acquired User-Generated Live Video Service Stringwire

This morning NBC News announced that it had acquired Stringwire, a user-generated live video service that lets news organizations request video footage, and have that live feed pushed directly to their control rooms, website, or wherever it needs to be. Stringwire founder Phil Groman will be joining NBC News as a product lead, based out of San Francisco.

The NY TimesBrian Stelter broke the story last night, and interviewed NBC News chief digital officer Vivian Schiller about it:

“You could get 30 people all feeding video, holding up their smartphones, and then we could look at that,” she said in an interview by phone. “We’ll be able to publish and broadcast some of them.”

“Wherever you see a swarm of eyewitnesses on Twitter, that’s the sweet spot for Stringwire,” she said, citing the July 6 crash-landing of an Asiana jet in San Francisco. That day, photos from a passenger and a short YouTube video from the terminal were the primary images on television until a local news helicopter arrived.

The move is an important one for NBC, as the battle among TV news organizations slowly continues its shift online, and user-generated content continues to make itself a vital part of any newsgathering operation.

While UGC has been featured on TV newscasts for years, live video is the one area that is yet to break through. User-generated photos and videos really first proved their worth during coverage of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, with dozens of students taking photos and video of the aftermath. CNN’s iReport was the biggest beneficiary, and to this day it remains the largest and most robust of the user-generated content initiatives that TV organizations have built.

IReport was so good, in fact, that CNN ended up laying off a number of of photojournalists in 2011, saying that submissions from iReporters made having so many people on staff redundant.

While pretty much every TV news outlet has a user-submission system or program, none have been as large and effective as CNN’s. Stringwire is decidedly different, but just as important. Verified users are featured, in the same way that regular iReporters are featured. The focus is also on live video, something that no other UGC system is capable of handling well right now.

For NBC, the hope is that the next time there is a major world event–whatever it may be–a Stringwire contributor will be nearby, and the network will be able to have live video hours before anyone else. TV is a visual medium, and video is at its heart. A lead of just a few minutes is an eternity in the world of TV news.

Details of the Stringwire purchase:

NBC NEWS ACQUIRES STRINGWIRE; BRINGS ON FOUNDER PHIL GROMAN

Network will leverage the user-generated live video technology for on-air and digital newsgathering

NEW YORK, NY– August 12, 2013– NBC News announced today it has acquired the user-generated live video service Stringwire, and hired its founder Phil Groman. Stringwire’s technology will provide the NBCUniversal News Group’s television and digital properties with new means for newsgathering and eyewitness user-generated video content. Groman joins NBC News as Product Lead and will be based out of the NBC News Digital Group’s San Francisco office.

Stringwire was developed by Groman as a service for news organizations to request video from a network of verified contributors with connected mobile devices capable of streaming video across the globe. For breaking news and stories that have a real-time visual component, Stringwire’s services provide the ability to recruit and direct contributors based on geographical location through Twitter, and to instantly access live footage. Aside from Groman’s use of Stringwire during Hurricane Sandy and the Kenyan elections, NBC News will be the first media organization to use the technology for live event coverage.

“Stringwire is at the leading edge of user-generated video products, with immediate value to our on-air and digital businesses. Long-term, we think there is great commercial potential” said Vivian Schiller, SVP & Chief Digital Officer at NBC News. “Phil is an incredibly talented developer and inventor who will bring a wealth of innovative and entrepreneurial experience to the NBC News Digital Group.”

Groman is a graduate of New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP), where he specialized in the design and production of mobile experiences. Stringwire was built out of Groman’s Master’s thesis. Prior to ITP, he spent two years in South Africa and Kenya as a designer and innovator at Afroes, a mobile development studio building applications for campaigning and education.

About NBC News Digital Group
NBC News Digital Group is a collection of innovative and powerful news brands that deliver compelling, diverse and visually engaging stories on your platform of choice. NBC News Digital Group features world-class brands including NBCNews.com, msnbc.com, TODAY.com, theGrio.com, NBCLatino.com, NBCPolitics.com, iVillage, Nightly News, Meet the Press, Dateline, Newsvine, Breaking News, and the existing apps and digital extensions of these respective properties. We provide something for every news consumer with our comprehensive offerings that deliver the best in breaking news, segments from your favorite NBC News shows, live video coverage, original journalism, lifestyle features, commentary and local updates.

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