Lab Notes

BringMeTheNews: A Crazy, Bittersweet Exit

The memo below was sent by Rick Kupchella, a GoKart Labs partner and founder of BringMeTheNews, on August 3rd, 2015. It was sent on the day news broke of the sale of BringMeTheNews.

Gang:

I wanted to reach out to you directly… to tell you about what’s happening today at BringMeTheNews.

It’s a crazy bittersweet deal…

But we have decided to sell the local Minnesota news operation to the Pohlad group effective immediately.

The news story is here.

I’ve always looked at our companies (GKL & BMTN) as – “cousins” – at least… and more full-on “siblings” – on our best and worst days over time. :)

And while the history pre-dates many of you…

I’d like to tell you a little bit about it…

Because it’s relevant… kind-of unusual… and very special, I think.

Each company has really been an integral part of the influential/formative years of the other.

The Beginning

The relationship between GoKart and BMTN is rooted in our shared value of innovation – from our earliest days.

In this case – our working relationship started with Don (Smithmier) & me connecting over a possible working relationship – between his music production group – with my broadcast production group.

At the time, I told him the only real “score” we were looking for was about a 1.5 second music intro for a radio program we were producing.

This quickly led to deeper conversations about how, for me, the radio program would be a broadcast extension of a digital news service (which was, at the time, still living mostly in my own head).

Then Don told me that his music production group was just beginning to hire folks to start a digital development group – a company that would ultimately help other companies disrupt their own industries – sometimes their own businesses.

Don saw this company of his – GoKart Labs – being a group that would, in fact, directly create its own businesses in pursuit of the disruption of certain categories – such as education, healthcare and media.

It took a few months for us to figure out how it would all come together, but looking back on it – I’ll always remember “the day” we built a business partnership that, in fact, grew two businesses concurrently.  Don’s concept of a digital design and development lab… and my concept of a new kind of news company.

In the end – he and his partners at GKL pledged so much time and money dedicating themselves and their soon-to-be-hired team of developers… to the building of BringMeTheNews.   They did it for a specific equity stake in BringMeTheNews.

We worked together – a lot – over the first few years… by the end of which I joined the GoKart operation as a partner, myself.

donrickaj
A.J. Meyer (Left), Rick (Top), Don Smithmier (Right)

Startup Culture

In the first year of operation – 85% of GKL’s revenue came from launching two startups: BringMeTheNews and Sophia.

Right out of the gate.

Talk about a startup culture!

What kind of company begins its life – imagining/creating – other companies?!

In the 5+ years since, GKL has stepped up at two critical intervals with BMTN.

There were a couple evolutions of the platform.

And then the marketing campaign in 2013… which established sustainable marketing lift helping us achieve approximately 10x audience growth in ~12 months.

Along the way – journalistically – we evolved the site to become much more of a “narrative curation” model… with high use of imagery.

Our parallel advancement of our native advertising/content marketing model is also worth noting.  It’s the only model we’ve ever had.  

Granted, for the first two years of operation… most clients had no idea what we were talking about.  But this base value of incorporating brand storytelling – in the context of news – has been a fundamental part of the value of BringMeTheNews from the beginning.   

BMTN participates in a digital news industry known for advancing horrible user experiences in the name of advertiser interest.

It’s a curious way to think of it – but part of our value proposition was to “disrupt” the digital consumer news experience – by eliminating the ‘noise pollution’ (popup banners, registration walls, etc).   

We did not believe mainstream digital advertising was serving either consumers – or advertisers – very well.

Now we’ve taken this model through to sale… to one of Minnesota’s great legacy companies – with holdings in media and entertainment.

The sale provides them with a significant digital presence (a million unique users/month).

And a radio network – that when combined with their own station in the metro – brings an audience of ~750k listeners a week.  The largest such operation in the state.

They have also acquired our social news operation, one of Minnesota’s largest – with a greater presence on Facebook than either the state’s largest newspaper – or the state’s public radio network (the two largest news operations in the state).

It’s something to be proud of.

bmtn
Members of GoKart + Rick the day we launched BMTN 3.0

Moving Forward

For us, the cash injection helps us pursue scalability and growth applying all we learned in local – to a new national model.   We will move away from the one-off local execution of news in a single market – to niche news executions at a national level.

We’ve already started in healthcare.

We’ve had to change our name with this sale… the new name going forward is PresentNation.

PresentNation reflects a core belief of our company that news provides the type of education in our communities that can serve as a catalyst for behavioral change & better outcomes for everybody.

We, as a news organization, are in pursuit of a more conscious, accountable and present nation.

You’ll come to recognize many similarities between the local & national news products.  But there are significant differences beyond the ‘pivot’ to national.

  1.    Distribution will start with a licensing model placing our news stories on the web pages of fee-for-service clients in the healthcare space.
  1.    We will accelerate distribution for these clients – through paid 3rd party placement of the stories they are hosting – on other national news and information sites – where their consumers are already going for news and information.
  1.    We will – effectively – be helping brands use news as a type of content marketing

– Leveraging licensed, arm’s-length editorial news content

– Adjacent to their industry niche

– To connect more-directly with their own consumers.

– To build their brand and

– To build consumer loyalty, trust, and relevance in pursuit of  

– Their own audience-building

We will also soon be developing a new consumer-facing platform… of our own.

Thanks

Lastly, I want to take a moment to say ‘thanks’ to all those at GKL – past & present – who’ve helped the team at BringMeTheNews make our product what it is.  

We didn’t just build a product together… we created a market… with a meaningful and loyal audience… across digital, broadcast and social media.

Together – and independently – we’ve come a long way.  Expanding our reach, value and impact – far beyond the limits of geography.

I feel doubly blessed with these affiliations…

– With the editorial & marketing teams at BringMeTheNews… and

– As a partner here at GKL today… where the brands keep getting bigger… the goals more audacious… and the talent/performance continues to improve.

I sincerely hope you feel and share that sense of pride… it is yours, too.

-Rick

GoKart is a digital invention & growth lab, a recognized ‘Top Place to Work’, and one of Inc’s Fastest Growing Private Companies in America. To learn more about our services, contact us here: [email protected]

PresentNation provides the top health stories each day by monitoring, curating and condensing hundreds of headlines into the most compelling stories impacting consumers and their health.  We deliver these stories through non-news brands to inform & inspire their consumers or employees.  For more information contact [email protected]

After 30 years working as an investigative reporter and news anchor, Rick has seen it all—which is why he loves being a part of our mad scientist crew that’s constantly inventing something new. He’s earned numerous awards including more than a dozen Emmys; with a drive to steer media into new, exciting directions, he’s added “tech entrepreneur” to his already impressive job list of author, speaker, and documentary producer.

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