CNN Buys Beme To Get To Neistat's Next Ideas

It seems an awkward time to tout a new online news source to pay attention to, but CNN may have one. Today, it announced it acquired the Beme, the unique user-generated content app that lets users shoot a unique real view of events.

The existing Beme goes away at the end of January, and the new project will be a separate freestanding company that will come back with a product by the middle of next year.

Presumably--but it’s only presumably--the new thing will be something like Beme, but apparently that’s not perfectly true.

It’s more like CNN is acquiring Casey Neistat, the inventive YouTube vlogger and one of the brains behind Beme.

Neistat told The Verge today:  “It’s going to be very different from Beme and bigger than a single product. There is a tremendous distrust between the audience that watches my content online and the information that is put out by traditional media. Our broad ambition is to figure out a way with tech and media to bridge the gigantic divide.”

The price of the acquisition wasn’t disclosed, but CNN is bringing the 11-person Beme staff along--it includes Matt Hackett, Beme’s co-founder and a former Tumblr engineering veep.

CNN talks about the prospects for Beme in news-revolution terms. Andrew Morse, the global head of CNN Digital, told The New York Times that CNN got really interested in Beme because  “Casey has tapped into nearly 6 million really powerful viewers, most of which do not tune in to CNN. To build this audience authentically, we believe we need to build something new.”

So pretty much, they’re buying Neistat for his YouTube channel and Beme, and his rock star rep.

I’m not so sure this is perfect time to announce the acquisition of a digital news-gathering app or any kind of news product that seems hard to define -- a lot of news about fake news, you’ve no doubt noticed, has put an edge on in the business.

“Brief” and “user generated” are the two relevant adjectives that go with Beme and both can be surprisingly dangerous concepts. But that what I think now. By the middle of next year, the digital news business will likely be screeching about something else. And who knows what Beme will grow up to be?

As Gizmodo reports in a unenthusiastic story titled “Why Did CNN Just Buy A Totally Useless App? Beme itself didn’t seem to be lighting up the world.

The app -- which was started last year and then improved to fix glitches this year -- had over a million users but seemed to have run out of gas, perhaps for the very reasons that it existed. Neistat wanted a simple video feed of the user’s existence, not the kind of souped-up video Snapchat affords or the longer stuff YouTube caters to.

Maybe not many in the social media world were as interested in that. That supports the idea that CNN is buying Beme to use it as a business unit that is plugged into the millennial non-CNN watching audience and is charged with figuring out a new way to reach it.

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