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Columbia's Newsy receives $1.5 million investment

Monday, March 28, 2011 | 8:10 p.m. CDT; updated 4:31 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Jim Flink, vice president of news operations at Newsy, shows an unpublished Newsy video spoken in Chinese on his iPad on Monday. The Columbia company is studying the feasibility of introducing Newsy applications in languages other than English.

COLUMBIA — A walk through the newsroom revealed fewer than half a dozen people sitting at desks in front of double-screened Apple computers. The atmosphere was calm. Only the cake and soda on the back counter and the tremor of voices on cell phones suggested something might be out of the ordinary at Newsy on Monday.

The privately funded startup company, which is making some of the most popular mobile news apps in the iTunes store, announced Monday that it has received a $1.5 million investment from a St. Louis-based equity firm.

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Jim Spencer, president and founder of Newsy, said he would not name the equity firm because it was common practice among private start-up companies not to identify investors.

Many of the company's employees — a group that includes journalism students — were on spring break Monday, but the remaining few were working hard.

"It's a startup, and folks don't sleep much around here, so it will be nice to get some more help," said Spencer. "Of course, that doesn't mean more sleep."

Spencer intends to hire several more staff members to handle the company's growth. Newsy already has about 40 full- and part-time employees and is producing about twice as many stories as it did last year.

Spencer said the investment shows Newsy's worth in teamwork, production and opportunity. Newsy's iPad app recently won an Appy Award for "Best News App." The company's other apps consistently show four- or five-star ratings in the iTunes store.

Newsy apps allow people to create a playlist of news broadcasts. Users can also comment on content, share with friends, review sources and download the broadcasts for later viewing. Newsy content is Airplay-enabled, which means users can stream Newsy broadcasts to an Apple TV.

The company produces about 12 to 15 news broadcasts a day, seven days a week, gathering and analyzing news broadcasts from multiple sources.

Spencer, who received his master's degree from the Missouri School of Journalism, partnered with MU two and a half years ago to open Newsy, at 904 Elm St., as an alternative learning lab for journalism students.

The company continues to watch media trends and test new ideas.

"Things are changing," said Jim Flink, vice president of news operations. "People aren't sitting around waiting for the 5 o'clock, 6 o'clock news anymore."

The team is currently producing broadcasts in Chinese and Spanish, which are not yet available on the market.

A new version of Newsy's iPad app will be released in April.


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