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In an over-saturated news and media landscape, the newsworthy items of the day can be easily buried under sensational celebrity gossip and mundane Facebook statuses. Luckily, start-up Newsana has created an online curated community to filter through the topics and stories that are relevant to industry professionals.

Much like reddit and digg, Newsana’s top stories are pushed to the front page by a means of voting, but each day only the top five stories are featured on the homepage. Additional stories are available in sorted channels such as business, lifestyle, media, politics, arts & entertainment, social issues, technology, world issues and world news.

Currently in beta, Newsana launched in April with carefully selected members who can create their own profiles, browse their targeted topics news feed, share news links, comment on stories and vote on stories that deserve the community’s attention.

Co-founders Ben Peterson and Jonathan Wong were inspired to start the site when they worked together at Journalists for Human Rights (JHR). Under Peterson’s leadership as co-founder and executive director from 2002 until 2011, JHR grew into Canada’s largest international media development organization, running 17 projects in African countries and built one of Canada’s strongest student leadership networks, helping aspiring journalists in their career paths.

At JHR, Peterson and Wong set out to find and share the daily Top 5 human rights stories, and they found that singling out those stories was a difficult task, “So we explored the idea of crowdsourcing them from JHR’s large network of human rights experts. We quickly realized that the problem – and solution – was not unique to the human rights field and Newsana was born,” Peterson said.

A key feature of the stylized site is the ability to share and start a conversation easily within the site. When members “pitch” a story with a link, a sub-text field is available for any additional commentary and opinion to complement the original story, giving the pitch a personal touch to an otherwise outside source. It’s a nice place to introduce the story without a 140 character limit.

Though, a different limit was set for members to help guide only the best information to come in. Newsana members can pitch within only the five topics they have chosen as their expertise, but can still vote on any story throughout the entire community of topics. This was a deliberate decision by Newsana, as they did not want the community members to pitch on topics beyond their expertise.

As members grow the number of pitches and votes in their profiles, a rank can be placed on especially active and conversational members. The rank can also affect the curated top stories. “Our member’s votes are weighed based on the Newsana ranking – the higher their rank, the more heavily their vote is weighted,” Peterson explained.

Presently, there are 40 topics under the nine channels, but Peterson said the plan is to keep expanding these topics. “Our goal is to serve ‘hyper-micro’ communities of all sorts – so if you care about ‘class action litigation in the US’ or ‘city politics in Toledo’ we’ll be the right place for you to come,” he said. The four most popular topics in terms of membership currently include social media, future of journalism, big ideas and art and design.

Peterson has heard from journalists that Newsana has been a great starting point for finding story ideas and for creatives seeking inspiration from others in their field.

The feedback has been positive, yet constructive. “Our members are awesome. We’ve been getting boat loads of feedback from them, good bad and ugly,” he said. “The key for us is to really listen to it – not just take what we agree with and ignoring the rest. Based on their feedback, we’ve made tons of changes to the site and are in the progress of making even more.”

Once Petersen and Wong find that Newsana has “rounded into full form,” the beta label will be removed as they continue learning through the startup’s growth. “Look, this is a business that you have to take it day-by-day, learning from your community and constantly adjusting to be ahead of the curve,” he said. “If we play it right, I think we have a serious chance to become a major player in online news and community.”

Contact Information

Ben Peterson
Co-Founder & CEO, Newsana

Newsana is available on Twitter at @mynewsana

About Jenny Wittman

Jenny Wittman is senior editor and features writer for Cision Blog and oversees the daily media updates on the site. She is also senior media researcher at Cision and joined the company in March 2008. She likes being outdoors, going to concerts, traveling and exploring art galleries. She adores all animals and has a fascination for the cosmos. Find her on Twitter @jennywittman.

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