Brad Feld

Back to Blog

NewsGator Acquires NetNewsWire

Oct 04, 2005
Category Investments

NewsGator announced today that it has acquired NetNewsWire, the most popular Mac-based RSS reader.  Many of the folks involved, including Brent Simmons (NetNewsWire), Greg Reinacker (NewsGator CTO / founder), Nick Bradbury (FeedDemon creator – now part of NewsGator), Sandy Hamilton (NewsGator EVP Sales/Marketing), and JB Holston (NewsGator CEO).  Rather than repeat what they’ve said, I’ll try to cover different ground.

When I originally invested in NewsGator in June 2004, the company consisted of Greg Reinacker and one other part time person.  I wrote a post describing why I invested in NewsGator.  In September 2004, I wrote a post about NewsGator’s new CEO and how Greg and I worked through the notion that I thought it was critically important to bring on a partner early in the business as CEO so Greg could focus on what he did best.

Greg then went to town.  It’s hard to believe that it’s been only a year since JB joined the company and 15 months since I made my initial investment.  In February 2005, Greg posted NewsGator’s product roadmap and put a firm stake in the ground about what he wanted to build.  In May 2005, NewsGator acquired FeedDemon (and added the incredibly talented Nick Bradbury to the team), filling a clear hole in the product roadmap.  The NetNewsWire acquisition is similar – NewsGator now has a Mac client to add to its family along with another hugely capable guy on the team – Brent Simmons.)  Oh – and NewsGator shipped their Enterprise Server product on Friday.

So – why are we doing this?  One word – “platform.”  Rich Tong and John Zagula (both ex-Microsoft – now partners at Ignition Partners) have written an excellent book called The Marketing Playbook on a series of different strategies a software company can take.  The platform play is one of them and the one we are executing at NewsGator (and at FeedBurner).

As a result of my blog and all the stats I collect, I have insight into the way people are using (or not using) RSS to consume content.  While I have access to other data as well, my FeedBurner subscriber stats are incredibly useful as I don’t have any “inappropriately biasing” data (e.g. none of the newsreader default feeds list my blog – automatically including them in my user counts).  In addition, I have the law of large numbers on my side (with n > 4000 subscribers and all of the top 10 readers having n > 75, I’ve got a decent shot at qualifying for statistical significance.)

The top 10, in order, are:

  1. Bloglines: 1384
  2. (NewsGator) Online: 627
  3. My Yahoo: 295
  4. (NewsGator) FeedDemon: 285
  5. (NewsGator) NetNewsWire: 238
  6. Firefox Live Bookmarks: 227
  7. FeedBlitz (email): 202
  8. Rojo: 133
  9. SharpReader: 109
  10. (NewsGator) Outlook: 79

I won’t bore you with rate of change data, but I have that as well and – while Bloglines is still the largest – their rate of change has slowed materially over the past few months while the various NewsGator products have accelerated.  Amazingly, there are another 45 different readers with at least 2 reported subscribers, and many more with only 1 (of which a number of them are clearly not reporting their subscriber counts to FeedBurner – something that will improve over time.)

As a huge consumer of RSS-based content (my current blogroll has around 350 feeds that I monitor daily), I bounce around between NewsGator’s various products.  Historically I’ve used NewsGator Outlook.  Recently, I’ve been exercising FeedDemon (and loving it) – especially combined with NewsGator Online.  Occasionally, I’ll use NewsGator Mobile on my T-Mobile Sidekick.  My Mac at home has NetNewsWire on it and once sync with NewsGator Online is completed, I’ll use it when I’m home.  Now that NewsGator Enterprise is in production, I’ll de-install NewsGator Outlook on my machines and simply roll with NewsGator Enterprise to feed my inbox.  NewsGator’s sync platform underlies all of this capability as I have a completely seamless transition between products. 

Now that most of the key pieces to the platform, including the API, are in place, NewsGator Enterprise edition is out, and Nick is almost able to code like a maniac again, look for rapid innovation on all fronts, especially NewsGator Online.