Social news bookmarking goes free-for-all

A new web service aims to let publishing entrepreneurs create their own reader-organised online newspapers, following the trail blazed by social news bookmark sites like Digg.

The San Francisco-based technology news operation, whose news agenda relies on users submitting and voting for stories found around the web, has gone from strength to strength in the past year, spawning a number of imitators, from Shoutwire to Reddit.

But new start-up CrispyNews gives anyone the tools to start free niche sites of their own. No server space is needed as sites are hosted remotely on the service, and site founders can earn shared advertising revenue from page views.

“Our aim is to take traditional editor-driven news sites and provide an alternative model where communities can submit, gather and edit their own news,” CrispyNews founder Nori Yoshida told

“The old saying about one man’s trash and another man’s treasure applies here. News is really anything that the community finds interesting. If people like it, it will get voted up since it is useful to the community. We think of our job as providing the infrastructure and not determining what is news and what isn’t.”

Started by three Massachussetts Institute of Technology computer science graduates, CrispyNews is based in Menlo Park, California, a haven for new media start-ups where Google began in a garage eight years ago.

Since launching in March, the service has attracted more than 40 experimental news sites on topics from the US Navy to American Idol, the most popular of the crop with stories and gossip about the TV show proposed and voted up the list by hundreds of reader-gatherers.

While Digg has proven a great success in its treatment of technology news, readers’ response to the prospect of participating in the creation of news agendas in other subject areas is as yet largely unproven. But Mr Yoshida is confident audiences of the future will realise the benefits of taking on extra responsibility.

“Lots of people are content to come browse the latest interesting articles, a smaller percentage feels part of the community and actively participates by voting and posting articles,” he said.

“They like contributing and seeing their actions make a difference in terms of what an audience sees. People like to feel like they are making a difference and, by voting on an article, they are – they’re letting their fellow readers know that they think an article is worth the extra attention.

“Just as bloggers are radically changing the online publishing industry, community news sites will change the news industry. However, I’m not sure this is the end of traditional news portals.

“In the early stages, we’ll be complementary, with community news sites covering off-beat items not featured in traditional magazines. But I think this does add pressure to newspapers and magazines already under a degree of pressure from alternative formats available online.”