Twitter news service taken over by MSNBC

Fledgling newswire service BNO will hand over control of its massively popular Twitter account to American news network MSNBC today, in a move that could mark a significant step forward for the young company.

BNO - which was started by a Dutch teenager less than three years ago - runs @breakingnews, one of the most popular accounts on Twitter that allows nearly 1.5m followers worldwide able to receive its rapacious stream of news updates on their mobile phones or over the web.

Despite that success, however, 19-year-old founder Michael van Poppel announced plans last week to hand over responsibility for its Twitter account, and Tuesday will mark the first time that executives at MSNBC officially begin running the operation.

The deal is part of a move by BNO to move away from focusing on Twitter and instead looking to services that can deliver profits - including a scheme to sell more specialised services to media companies in the new year.

BNO already has a popular iPhone application, but said it is focusing on building out a subscription-based wire service that will be offered to publishers.

"It is important to note that will not take over BNO News as a company, and will have no influence over our future operations which includes any of our content," said van Poppel in a post on the company's website.

"Of course I would have not agreed to this if I was not confident that our Twitter account, with nearly 1.5 million followers, would be in good hands."

For the past two years, BNO's Twitter service has been run by a string of editors in Europe and the Americas who monitor other news outlets and do their own reporting on breaking stories. Van Poppel said that MSNBC has created its own 24 hour team to run the service.

The company - whose name, appropriately enough, stands for "breaking news online" - was started in May 2007, and scored a success in September of the same year when van Poppel acquired an unpublished video of Osama bin Laden and sold it to Reuters.

The financial terms of the deal have not been made public, but the American news network has already said it will be the first customer of the forthcoming wire service, due to launch in 2010.

It is not the first time that a news organisation has taken over the operation of a major Twitter account - CNN obtained the rights to one of the service's most popular pages in April - but the deal marks the latest attempt by MSNBC's digital arm to move into new territory.

In August, the company bought US local news and data service EveryBlock for what was reported to be several million dollars.

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