NBC News has acquired the user-generated live video service Stringwire, in addition to hiring the startup’s founder, Phil Groman. Stringwire's technology allows NBC News to gather video footage from the public more efficiently, but the technology poses challenges from an advertising standpoint.
When Twitter users tweet about a news event, NBC News will be able to send those users a tweet asking them to click a link and “point their camera at what they are seeing,” and Stringwire will stream their video footage for NBC to review, according to The New York Times, which had the story first.
"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, in a statement.
When asked to elaborate on the advertising opportunities behind Stringwire, Schiller demurred, noting in an email that, “it's too early to say anything specific. Right now, we are focused on building the best possible product.”
Beyond licensing Stringwire’s technology to other companies, it is unclear whether Stringwire will help NBC News monetize user-generated content. NBC News could potentially use Stringwire as a crowdsourcing tool for sponsored campaigns. But as Instagram learned when it added language to its Terms & Conditions granting it the right to sell users’ photos to advertisers, consumers may not take kindly to NBC attaching advertisements to videos that they submit to the news site.
Groman graduated from New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program this year, and the origin of Stringwire traces to his Master’s thesis. NBC News has hired him to lead further development of Stringwire, from the network’s San Francisco office.
Even if NBC does not ultimately use Stringwire as a source of ad revenue, the pressure is mounting for the broadcast network to monetize its mobile audience. More than half of Americans now own a smartphone, according to the Pew Research Center. As mobile usage continues to climb, mobile advertising grows increasingly compelling to marketers. Mobile advertising revenue rose from $5.3 billion in 2011 to $8.9 billion last year in an 83% increase globally, according to the IAB.