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@BreakingNewsOn: From Twitter Account To Public News Wire Service

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If you’re a news junkie and you’re on Twitter, there’s a good chance that you’re following @BreakingNewsOn, an account that often actually breaks news before any other media organization does, ranging from political news to natural disasters and other noteworthy events from across the globe.

As one of the 16400 followers of the account, I caught an announcement last week about the impending launch of BNO News, an extension of the news service to a separate website and a Pledgie entry where people can donate in order to contribute to the launch. I was intrigued and got in touch with founder Michael van Poppel, who set up the account back in May 2007 when he first found out about Twitter and the potential of releasing short news announcements quickly to people opting into it.

How Osama Bin Laden jumpstarted the service

In September 2007, van Poppel got hold of an unpublished videotape of Osama bin Laden, which he consequently sold to Reuters. It was then that he realized that he was sitting on something potentially valuable, and started thinking about organizing and structuring the whole process around the Twitter account. Over the past few months, BreakingNewsOn grew into a service that provides 24/7 news updates from around the world, often before any mainstream media reports on the same events, and providing more context with relevant text messages and links about the topic right after posting the actual breaking news.

Van Poppel says many news organizations claim to be leaders in breaking news but rarely live up to those claims because the information is often already “out there” for some time. He won’t go into detail about the specifics of his newsgathering operation, but says they use pretty much the same official sources as any news agency but with a much more efficient, unique processing system in combination with an extensive monitoring platform that digs up fresh news items almost as they happen. If you’re interested, read about how BreakingNewsOn beat a 911 call once in reporting a bus crash in the Bronx.

Moving away from Twitter

The reason BreakingNewsOn is moving away from Twitter in favor of a separate website with live updates from news events from across the globe, is as simple as it is obvious: the free service could never be monetized the way Twitter works right now. BNO News will have separate RSS feeds and e-mail alerts. It intends to also process user-submitted news items in true citizen journalism fashion and is thinking of adding some features especially designed to cater to professional journalists and raw news junkies.

The team has every intention of keeping the service free to users, and is keen on keeping the Twitter account pumping out news updates the way it is now, although I expect them to tone it down a little if the site gets any traction.

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