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NBC News Launches iCue

NBC News has launched a free online community,, that combines games, video and discussion in what NBC calls “a fun and safe environment.” It will be ad supported, but with no viral marketing or snack food ads, says the company.

 The site employs a “Cue Card” media player that users can view, flip over and get more information, customize them with their own input, then store and trade them with other members of the community.

 iCue was developed using research from an MIT group studying the integration of gaming and learning. Content for the site includes NBC News video, articles, charts and other source materials that can be shared and discussed. Early emphasis will be on the upcoming election..

 NBC says it will protect users privacy by excluding full names birthdays of photos. The site currently has no ads, but will eventually be advertising-supported, according to a spokesperson.

The new site is an offshoot, but separate from, NBC News' archive on demand effort with HotChalk, a site that lets teachers share information and lesson plans.

While the HotChalk archive is targetted to schools for a flat fee, the ad-supported iCue site is geared toward high school kids to help them share information as well. "It is perfectly valid for students to enhance their own understanding by interacting with other students on particular subject areas," says NBC News Chief Financial Officer Adam Jones.

Any concerns about going a little too much sharing? "There is no question that students could try and game the system, but you can't play the games or do the question work unless you understand the curriculum."

He says there will eventually be an institutional version of iCue for schools, but he doesn't see that as being ad supported.

In terms of the advertising on iCue, Jones says the site will have a limited number of sponsors, but no viral marketing--"absolutely not," says Jones--and no ads for soft drinks or Twinkies. "We're looking for a sponsor who buys into what we are trying to do," he says.

Jones says he expects have lined up those sponsors by the fall, and could create a school-targeted version of iCue as early as fall of next year.

MIT will also piggyback on the new site, asking users whether they want to participate in its research. "We've written a research grant into the back of iCue," says Jones. MIT will ask uses whether they want to participate and, if so, "they are part of the statistics that MIT will gather for a planned white paper. We are hoping that when AP (Advanced Placement) students use this site, they get a better score than those that don't," says Jones.