There are plenty of inventive ways to find news these days. From Flipboard‘s beautiful presentation of what your friends’ are sharing through to recent innovations from Google News. NewsWhip is a new site from an Irish team that takes a dash of Flipboard’s approach and adds a pinch of Tweetmeme to surface important news stories based on current sharing trends on Twitter and Facebook.

It works by categorising hundreds of thousands of news stories from across the Web, and monitoring Twitter and Facebook to see which have been shared the most in the past few minutes or hours. The result is like a ranking of what’s getting shared and tweeted the fastest.

The NewsWhip team are pitching this as having a key difference to traditional news aggregators and social recommendation services, allowing as it does for users to get a “30,000 foot live view for what everyone is talking about.” As well as an overall list, it’s possible to narrow down to what’s popular in particular countries or in particular categories of news, such as Gossip, Culture, Tech, Business and Sports.

While the graphic design of the site could definitely be a little more inspiring, it certainly does a good job or surfacing content of the ‘isn’t that interesting?’ variety – kind of like a passive version of Digg, where people are taking part without actively doing anything.

Screen Shot 2011 09 28 at 10.57.46 520x348 NewsWhip mines Twitter and Facebook to find hottest news right now

The story so far

“NewsWhip is the result of a pivot,” explains founder Paul Quigley. “Last year, I started an online Irish news site to try and shake up the Irish news scene. But we were drowned out by bigger, more established names. In our tone and attitude we had a unique product, but with 50,000 or so news stories published each day in English, no one cared. We were just adding to the noise.”

“I reckoned the best value add for a news startup was helping to highlight the best quality stuff,” he continues. “There are great stories published all over the web every day, and there’s a real value in highlighting these, wherever they are published. But how do you separate the good stuff?”

“I got curious about the Facebook and Twitter APIs and looked into using them. There’s over half a billion active social network users, deciding each day what, if anything, is worth sharing with their friends. When I realized you could build a system to track in real time which stories were getting the most traction on the networks, I was bowled over with the potential.”

Teaming up with entrepreneur Andrew Mullaney, who had faced similar problems of working in a crowded market with the daily deals platform Easydeals. Together they created NewsWhip to measure the speed at which 50,000 different news stories and blog entries spread through social networks each day.

The pair were accepted onto Irish accelerator Launchpad which puts startups on a three-month program and provides €20,000 of micro seed investment. Aside from that, NewsWhip is self-funded and investigating interest in investment from both Ireland and the US.

Screen Shot 2011 09 28 at 11.07.59 520x253 NewsWhip mines Twitter and Facebook to find hottest news right now

Where from here?

In the future, the team plans to introduce a daily alerts tool that will deliver people a daily summary of the most shared stories in any topic of interest. Mobile apps are also on the horizon, while work is in progress to hone the user experience of the site.

“As a more long term product, we’re developing a social analytics tool for publishers,” explains Quigley. “Social networks are turning into a major distribution channel for publishers, and they need to understand their social network distribution in far more detail than the like count on their pages. We’re still considering the most useful approach for that and we’re talking to publishers about it. So ‘NewsWhip Pro’ is likely on the cards.”

Making sense of the news content out there is a tough job and it’s a competitive market, but NewsWhip is taking its own path and is definitely worth keeping an eye on.