Leo Fasbender, Newsgrape : Publishing made social

By Team YS|15th Feb 2011
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Newsgrape is a free text-community for the sharing of articles, which it links to each other. Writers can create Magazines to publish articles collaboratively in a group of people. With the E-Go , Readers have numerous ways to filter through interesting articles from the database to organize them in subscription groups or store them in libraries. It also caters for bi- or multilingual users, as it allows for multiple languages on one interface, simultaneously. Two main innovations are the Newsrank algorithm, which evaluates the quality of each article based on reader behavior, and the Fastnews, which we believe could distribute short news more efficiently than, for example, Facebook or Twitter. Newsgrape offers up to 75% from the advertising revenue generated by articles to the authors, and aims to become the best income source for successful bloggers.Other features are: Awards, which can be granted in regular intervals by magazines and writers, a smart commenting system, where the comments change according to user evaluation, and a messaging system, which, next to normal user to user messaging and contact between writers and their subscribers, also provides a board for magazine internal communication. All of this, with modern privacy-settings , to give complete control over personal data, to be deleted with the click of a button. Student entrepreneur and cofounder of Newsgrape Leo Fasbender talks about his business idea.

Introduce yourself to our readers.

My name is Leo Fasbender, I was born in 1988 in Straubing, Germany. Following an exciting childhood where I lived and went to school in Moscow, Russia, for about six years, I moved to Vienna, Austria, in 1999. I then visited different schools, like a boarding school in Northern Germany until I decided to take a break and started working as a sales-manager in a small import/export company in Vienna for one year, until I thought it was about time to get back to education and moved to Newcastle upon Tyne to study two semesters of Marketing, Politics and Media Studies. In September 2010, I moved to London to study for my Bachelor Degree in Media and Communication, with a focus on Interactive-Media, at Goldsmith’s University, London. Manly because I hope that it will benefit towards my work with Newsgrape. (So I did in fact start working in this field before I started studying it, a different approach from most of the students, I suppose)

After all this moving around I guess I consider myself European, if anything. I like to snowboard, have a 600cc Yamaha motorbike, I read a lot and thats prettymuch all I can think of at the moment. :)

How did the idea of Newsgrape come about?

The origin of Newsgrape was sometime during the summer of 2009 when my partner, Felix Häusler, and I founded an online magazine (www.critics.at) out of creativity and boredom, I guess. It was back then when I was still working as a sales manager and only a couple of weeks before I left for Newcastle. Our collaboration has provento function very well, despite having to work from two different countries, thanks to methods of modern communications, like Skype, I suppose. Later I became the Editor in Chief of the team, which had reached over a dozen co-writers by then, manly students covering the different topics of their interest and Felix, on the other hand, was more interested in marketing and how to reach a broader audience, from a publishers point of view.

One late evening, during the cold winter months, we sat down with our programmer, Gabor, and thought about how to bring the idea of online magazines to a new level, because we agreed, that the sharing of literary contributions on the web ought to be more efficient and lacked some important features.

So from forming a community for a magazine - like we did with online castings to find talented writers - we moved on to creating a community with its own articles and magazines from publishers and writers for readers - in a mutually beneficial way.

So this is a social way of publishing?

Yes, we are attempting to create the most socially interactive news and text-sharing community ever build. First, there is the social curated magazine system of multiple interlinked magazines, which create a simple collaborate blogging place and enable people to publish together, under a shared banner which includes magazine internal communication, a hierarchy system of Editors, Editors in Chief and Columnists.

Second, we are going to introduce an innovative award system, which is going to create a strong and socially curated user base and emphasize on good reading material. The award system is very complex and I can't tell you any more about it now because we are going to introduce it two months later, after the Pre-Beta Phase is over.

How do you rank articles?

The Newsrank is an algorithm which analysis the reading behavior of each user, on each article on its own. So, to give you an idea, the Newsgrape Newsrank doesn't really ask "what" but rather: "why?": An example: An user comes across an article and rated its as negative, additionally he posts a comment that is later marked as "provocative" from other users (check out "commenting").

Traditional ranking software would likely evaluate the input as:

Rating -1, comment +1, in relation to the page views = value of the item.

Newsgrape however, is able to put the action in relation to each other:

Rating -1 and +1 comment can also mean: "negative feedback"

How exactly the factors work in relation to each other is something we cannot make public - otherwise the whole system would be too easy manipulated. Perhaps it analyses how much of the article the user has actually read before choosing "dislike". Perhaps it also looks at how each comment is marked by other users. This and many more details influence the unique Newsgrape Newsrank. The whole algorithm was put into pieces by our former math teacher.

Revenue and Business model?

The revenue will be generated with advertisement. However, we also set new standards here, with an advertisement and affiliate system which will give more flexibility towards the advertisers.

On the other side will all successful writers (as soon as they reach a certain amount of readers) automatically be offered 75% of the revenue their article and profile pages generate. This is more than with your own blog and AdWords, for example, and will function very simple - a PayPal account is all that is necessary.

Later, we will also introduce a premium-model for professional publisher companies, with automated content generation out of different formats, like pdf etc, but it will always be for free for normal users.

Check out Newsgrape here : http://www.newsgrape.com/start/

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