Rick Kupchella's BringMeTheNews gets social


Former KARE-TV anchor Rick Kupchella's new site made a big splash in the local media pool last week when it announced its launch in tandem with breaking the story of former Sen. Norm Coleman's Bell's Palsy diagnosis. Since then, the site has also waded into the social media space, with an aggressive presence on Facebook (654 fans) and Twitter (504 followers). 

Tom Elko, the news director at BringMeTheNews, engaged in a little Q&A on Friday. The way he explained it, the site's credibility is based on Kupchella's reputation, and it's business model is based on delivering content and stories from sponsors that align with the topic covered on the news side of the business.

(Elko's last news media gig was covering the 2008 U.S. Senate race between Coleman and Al Franken for video news site The Uptake)

Q: Welcome to the Twin Cities' media mix. What sets you all apart from the Strib, PiPress, MinnPost, MPR, the Daily Planet and other local aggregators?

A: "A lot. Our priority is user experience. This means no banner ads, no pagination, no registration or pay walls. We often gather related content into "news stacks," which provide context and further information. We also embrace social media integration and creative commons licensing.

"We've built our organization around the brand of a well-known and trusted veteran journalist (Kupchella), rather than relying on the organization itself to lend credibility to the content.

"Besides our website and social networks, we're delivering the news on a growing network of radio stations. Delivering news in the morning and afternoon drive times on Cities 97 and KQQL 108, and all day on the KFAN online stream, means we're putting quality news content, whether that be original reporting or news aggregated by journalists, in places where it didn't previously exist.

"Our ad model is unique as well. Aside from being mentioned in our radio reports, our sponsors are producing relevant, quality content as well - content which we believe will have value to our readers. The idea is that rather than hitting the consumer over the head with an intrusive banner ad, offer them something of value. When we broke the Norm Coleman/Bell's Palsy story, on of our sponsors, Optum Health, already had physician-vetted information on the affliction. When the latest job numbers were released showing a dwindling workforce, Capella University had information on how to find a job in tough economic times."

Q: How did you guys get the Coleman scoop? And how did you keep it under wraps for launch day?

A: "Despite the speculation, you're actually the first person to directly ask this question, so thank you for that. If by the "Coleman scoop" you mean the Bell's Palsy story - fact is we had requested and scheduled an interview with him - about his perspectives on the race/recount & his future plans - well before he was struck with Bell's Palsy. As a matter of fact, he first began to experience the symptoms the night before we were originally scheduled to do the interview, and he canceled on us the morning of the scheduled interview. It wasn't until we rescheduled did we learn what had actually happened. So, that one just kind of fell into our laps.

"And we didn't keep it under wraps at all, we actually did just the opposite. We filmed the interview late on a Thursday afternoon, and by 8:00 that night we had called most of the newsrooms in town and offered the story and the video to them under the condition that we be properly credited (per Creative Commons licensing). The video was posted to our site at about 9:00 and it was then passed along to the interested newsrooms."
Q: How long was the development process, from concept to launch of the site?

A: "It's been a process. Being media people, we've long had ideas in our heads. It really wasn't until Rick left KARE that the opportunity to do it successfully really came about." (Kupchella left KARE over the summer.)
Q: How many people are involved, what's your experience and role, and what role does Kupchella play?

"Right now there's five of us. Rick is the Editor-in-Chief and CEO. His involvement is so crucial to making this a success - Taylor and I could have put something similar together, but without out a heavy hitter like Rick, it would probably be an unbearable uphill struggle to get any traction. The radio play wouldn't be there, advertisers wouldn't be nearly as interested, and we wouldn't have the trust and credibility as a news service that Rick provides. That, and he's a really great guy with some big ideas. There aren't a lot of journalists willing to walk away from a storied organization like KARE to do start-up like this.

"Rick's former co-anchor at KARE, Amy Hockert, is also on board doing radio reports in the afternoon."

Q: Was social media part of the strategy from the beginning?

A: "Our social media strategy was simple. We recognize people consume and discuss news and issues on social media, so we wanted to facilitate as much as possible. Again, its about user experience. 

I'm a big advocate of using social media to replace traditional commenting systems - letting people discuss the news with their own network of friends. This also has the benefit of adding a layer of accountability to what people say. If you want to be an ass or engage in a flame-war, fine, do it in front of your own audience, your social network, and spare the rest of us. Additionally, facilitating the ability to push content to social networks increases our reach and distribution. 

Right now we're focusing on Twitter and Facebook. We have ideas to not only enhance the interaction with those sites, but to move into smaller, emerging networks, like Tumblr and mobile applications, as well."

Q: The @bringMN Twitter feed links straight to original stories -- not to your site. That's interesting, because most MSM use Twitter to drive traffic to their brands.

A: "Yeah, again, user experience. The out-bound link is true in most circumstances unless its a link to original reporting or on of our "news stacks." If our goal is to find and direct readers to well reported and relevant stories, whether it's from WCCO, City Pages, the Jordan Independent, or a blog, then I want to send them straight to the source. We extend our brand through the short url. If you see that, whether in a retweet or a network unrelated to our own, hopefully you'll recognize that it's quality, filtered, content or original reporting from BringMeTheNews."

Q: Will you set up an automatic feed of your Web site headlines to @bringMN, or do you intend to keep the tweets and the site headiness separate?

A: "I'm not a big fan of automation (that particularly applies to aggregation). We have a second twitter account at @bringmethenews. One of those will eventually be a feed for those who want that in their network. Because the way the news cycle works, we're often publishing content in the wee hours of the morning, and those stories would be long gone for most people."