Former anchor Rick Kupchella is now delivering the news in a different way, in a business model he says is growing.
In less than two years, former TV anchor Rick Kupchella has turned news aggregator Bringmethenews.com into a profitable company that continues to grow. Bring Me the News collects and displays stories, along with links to sources, so that consumers can access more news at one location.
Two years ago Bring Me the News was a concept. Today the news aggregator is a multimillion-dollar operation that touches nearly all corners of Minnesota with website hits and radio broadcasts.
It provides radio feeds, Internet links and social media posts to news consumers who don't have the time, desire or capability to track news in more conventional methods. Bring Me the News finds the stories for consumers and provides links to the source, be it a traditional newspaper or TV broadcast or political blog.
It is the brainchild of former TV anchor Rick Kupchella and was born of necessity when he and KARE-TV couldn't agree on a new contract.
But the company's standing was seriously solidified a year ago when it obtained a $1 million investment from Minneapolis publisher Dolan Media and public relations firm Padilla Speer Beardsley.
The board includes founding partner Don Smithmier, who runs an advertising and Web development agency, James Dolan of Dolan Media, Lynn Casey, CEO of Padilla Speer Beardsley, Greg Heinemann of Olson/Denali, and financial consultant Susan Shank.
Q What's it been like the last two years?
A The difference between this and TV is the absence of ratings. With ratings, it's like hell for weeks and then when you get to the other side of ratings, I could take three or four weeks off. I can't do that anymore. When we opened the door we were on two radio stations and did 100 broadcasts a week. Today we're on 33 radio stations with almost a complete footprint covering Minnesota. We're doing 1,750 broadcasts a week. Our distribution network is dot-com [online], radio and social media including Facebook and Twitter. Facebook is a major driver.
Q Who makes up your audience?
A We're in the middle of our first big research project. We're doing focus group work. The audience is broad-based. Some on Facebook just want Facebook access. Some want it just through Twitter. Some just through radio. The early look at the audience indicates it skews a little bit female, 41 to 42 years old.
Q How to you gather information?
A We employ journalists, and our job is to apply journalism skills to keep up with the most important news of the day. All news organizations monitor each other. We are seldom first with the news, but we are always second. We monitor everything that has a digital presence. Four hundred-plus RSS feeds drive into here, and we get many returns on key word searches.
Q How big is your staff?
A We had three at the beginning, and today there are 15 of us. The big job this year has been to expand our platform. We added sports last year and business in the last few weeks. Now we're looking at adding entertainment and health news. The radio value of sports is very strong. KFAN just added us last week on air, which is a major coup for us.
Q You have sponsors instead of advertisers. How does that work?
A We don't have the standard banners or pop-up ads. We're of the belief that the digital environment for news is highly polluted. Pop-ups and banners don't drive much in the way of traffic. They have a low click-through rate. We look at the development of content strategy as the new bar in online advertising. For example, OptumHealth is a prime sponsor. We look to position sponsors as an authority on a specific vertical level. Optum is an authority on health and wellness. If we have a story on the H1N1 virus we drive consumers to the OptumHealth page [for tips on dealing with the virus]. We have five sponsors on one-year contracts. We started with two. We're growing it all the time. This is not a high-churn play. We want to keep sponsors in a long-term relationship. A full deck would be 15 to 20 sponsors when we're all done.
Q Is the company financially successful?
A We make money from our sponsors. We were cash-flow-positive right away. We are not today. But if you looked at us as a $1 million investment when we began, the company would have been valued at $4 million a year ago. We've been growing since then. With health and entertainment news, the idea has been to feather out our presentation, and we look to replicate that in new markets. We're looking at potential [news] partners and distribution partners in other markets. If we were to go to Atlanta, for instance, who would have the deep knowledge and trust of Atlanta? We would hire local news people and local [on-air] talent. But everything takes longer than I'd like it to take. I'm looking at many markets. We might have something by the first or second quarter of next year.
A We want to develop a new funding model to advance independent investigative journalism and have that associated with Bring Me the News. We want deep journalism. We don't hire reporters to cover news conferences, but we did cover the tornado and the arrival of Ricky Rubio. But that is probably sixth or seventh on our list of things to do. Our value is to help the public pull it all together in one location. It's a production and distribution value.
David Phelps • 612-673-7269