In a bet on user-generated content, NBC News has acquired a startup called Stringwire in what the New York Times is calling an acqui-hire. The company’s founder, Phil Groman, developed software to enable real-time sharing of smartphone video, which chief NBC News digital content officer Vivian Schiller believes is going to be the next generation of news coverage. "Wherever you see a swarm of eyewitnesses on Twitter, that’s the sweet spot for Stringwire," she said.

NBC wants its cameras on the ground as quickly as possible

The software uses the emerging WebRTC standard for transmitting real-time voice and video data over the web. It's currently in private beta, but the Times writes that NBC could simply ask people tweeting from a news event to click a link that launches the Stringwire web app, obviating the need to install any specialized software. If the footage was particularly compelling, NBC would then be in a position to air it live. In cases like the manhunt following the Boston bombing and the Tahrir Square clashes in Cairo, Twitter was often the first source of breaking news, and NBC wants its cameras on the ground as quickly as possible.

As user-generated content continues to grow as a share of total news footage, it’s natural for networks to explore ways to capitalize on it, and Schiller mentioned that Stringwire had "great commercial opportunities," hinting that it could license the technology to other news organizations.