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Kluster launches social-news site

Giving users a cut of the Knewsroom ad revenue is an interesting new take on social news, but Kluster is a small site without the eyes to pull in that revenue.

Just a few months after it enjoyed a high-profile launch at the TED Conference, Kluster--a social site for project collaboration that allowed members to share in potential profits--has restructured.

On Wednesday, the company launched Knewsroom, a social-news site, as part of its new Kluster Labs strategy.

A look at a 'Knewsroom' submission Kluster

"Seven weeks in and a million dollars down the drain, we know what works," founder Ben Kaufman said in a video he posted to YouTube late in April, when he first announced some changes.

Kluster had already "restructured" once: it got its start as iPod accessory company Mophie, and its community-focused product development strategy caught the eye of TED organizers at the Macworld conference.

Kluster's strategy had some big flaws, Kaufman admitted in an e-mail sent to members Wednesday. "It sucks when you go to Kluster, and there aren't any paid projects to jump in on," he said. "When everyone comes together to tackle a single project, the results are amazing."

That's why Kluster has decided to opt for company-created Kluster Labs projects, inviting the community to contribute. It has kept "Kluster Custom" product licensing for corporate clients.

Knewsroom, the inaugural Kluster Labs project, is sort of like what would happen if Digg users got paid when their stories hit the front page--and had a limited number of "diggs" available.

Users submit news topics and stories each day, and then they use part of a Kluster currency called "watts" to "invest" in a story. The top stories are aggregated into the next day's "Knews" roundup, and based on the investment a given member has, he or she will get a proportional cut of the advertising revenue.

The snag is whether that ad revenue will amount to much. The concept of a "daily news" source has declined with the rise of blogs, RSS feeds, and other round-the-clock news sources, and Kluster is a small start-up without the traction that would already be there with Digg or Current TV. But it's an experiment, Kaufman has said, and more Kluster Labs projects are on the way.