By Rick Kupchella April 11, 2013

Why I Had to Adapt or Die

The pace of change – and the volume of information being produced today – is extraordinary.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt has said today’s society creates as much information every two days … as we did from the beginning of time… through 2003.

That might sound like crazy talk from a smart guy…But it’s a helluva quantifiable measure for “the information age”.

It’s worth noting – he’s not saying it’s all useful information. And Lord knows a great deal of what’s being produced these days is redundant.

How it’s Played Out in Local News

The reality of what’s happening with information/content creation, management, and distribution is profound. And the way it’s playing out in the news business itself… has been a complete game-changer.

While the public is just beginning to appreciate the magnitude of what’s happening with the news. The truth is, it’s been playing out for a solid ten years.

Case in Point: Today – the TV stations in the Twin Cities are playing with approximately one of every three dollars they had in the late ’90s. Adjusted for inflation, two of every three dollars are gone.

A lot of people think that’s because of the economy. It’s not.

The downturn in the economy was just a kick in the groin… after the news industry had been knocked to the ground.

What’s really hit the media is the massive proliferation of competition. There are overwhelmingly more places to go for information.

As the audience became more fragmented, revenue declined. News organizations shrunk. Their ability to produce original content was seriously scaled back.

In the end – when you think about it – there’s really no rational argument for the five o’clock news anymore. Short of wanting to tune in to see your favorite local personalities.

If there’s something you really want to know – you can find it pretty easily on your phone.

The problem for many local news organizations has been further exacerbated by true local news channels (of all kinds) being bought up by conglomerates that neutralize an organization’s ability to remain truly local. In the name of “efficiency” huge elements of the news are managed off-site – from some far away place – producing graphics, or traffic, or weather – from central locations trying to serve many at a local level.

And in the course of all of this, users are often left behind. So are advertisers, frankly. Left to devices like ‘banner ads’ created at the dawn of digital marketing. And poorly advanced since then. Those banners doing little to serve sponsors or consumers.

It’s been tough!

And it’s important to understand: newspapers are in no better health… radio is hurting. And the situation in the Twin Cities is really no worse than it is anywhere else in America. But it’s not much better, either.

I lived through this extraordinary change as it was happening. Not so easy to detect at first. Like aging… you might get a little glimpse of reality here or there. But this played out like a slow-reveal.

Ultimately, we began to figure out: “This is not temporary”.

The realization… and the impending consequence – came to me head-on in 2009. I’d been working in broadcasting almost 30 years at that point (having started at the age of 17). I had a contract – up for renewal. And for the first time in my career – I honestly could not imagine what my industry – (i.e. “my career”/”my life”) – would look like on the other side of the two-year deal. For a guy who really likes to know where he’s going… it didn’t feel so good.

The uncertain future had been gnawing at me for several years already. And while I knew there was real risk in trying to shift gears on a career in my mid-40s… I was equally impressed by the certain consequence of standing still.

And the truth is… I felt better about my odds… trying to figure things out on my own. I would have more control of my future, if I stepped out… than I would trying to hang on to the mother ship of legacy broadcasting.

If TV stations really knew what they were doing in the new digital world… they would have invented YouTube. If newspapers really understood what was happening… they’d have invented Craigslist.

True innovation most commonly happens – outside – legacy operations. In any vertical. The greatest legacy players in the world figure out how to leverage entrepreneurial 3rd parties… to help them find their way.

I wanted to work on that.

Evolution

I got together with a few other guys… and started to work on it. We sought to create a new model for news delivery. The opportunity is everywhere.

For consumers there’s a real need for uncluttered news delivery. For sponsors a real need for relevance. In the process of working on it all… I would also resolve the need I had personally/professionally – to recreate myself.

It was scary for just a little bit, I’m not gonna lie. But mostly – it was an adrenaline rush. I think I operated on pure adrenaline for the first two years.

I sought out more than a few wise journalists to coach me through my own thinking.

The first – most common response was/honestly: Are you nuts? You’re crazy. What are you doing?

But I was most fixated on the words of one of them in particular… who (after asking the apparently requisite ‘Are you nuts?’) said:

The world is divided pretty much into two camps: Those who act… and those who are acted upon. Which are you going to be?

I loved that line. I’ve repeated it hundreds of times in the last few years… the first couple hundred… just to myself.

Why BMTN Partners with GoKart Labs

donrickaj

I’ve collected stories of success and failure as a journalist for decades. One thing the best stories seem to have in common… is good, honest, cohesive partnerships.

We’ve been lucky to build that at BringMeTheNews from the beginning. It’s evolved: different people at different critical stages of development.

But my early partnership with Don Smithmier, founder at GoKart Labs was important for me out of the gate.

I had little in the way of a ‘business background’ when I started.

While I brought the early expertise in news collection, dissemination, and even sales… Smithmier and his colleagues were helping me hammer out the model.

We were a good fit early-on, marrying our independent expertise. I literally moved in with them… and we worked on it together.

GKL’s other founding partner – A.J. Meyer – took a lead role in helping to imagine – and build – the news site.

One way to think about what we created with BringMeTheNews… is that it’s an advanced content marketing platform – for businesses. It’s wrapped in one of the cleanest local news delivery platforms you’ll find anywhere.

That platform is also home to the state’s top-ranked radio newscast – according to the Society of Professional Journalists – since its inception.

With GKL’s help… we now deliver news & sponsored content to about a million Minnesotans every week… on air and across devices.

bmtn

I’ve told my friends – you can look at GKL as a group of developers… but not in the traditional sense. Sure they can develop software… websites… apps… but generally… that only comes after they’ve developed the concepts, the business plans, the management teams, and raised the capital.

Mostly – they’re developers of business. Creators.

After a few years of working alongside each other… I became an equity partner at GKL last fall.

Early success in both companies

Collectively, in less than three years, we’ve raised nearly $15M in investment capital for various concepts.

In the process… we’ve taken whole companies from concept… through ideation… build-out… and investment rounds – up through and including sale.

If you’d have told me when I was walking out of KARE Television three years ago…  that we’d be where we are – collectively creating a hundred jobs… in about three years… (and still needing help!)… I’d have told you: “You’re crazy.”

But so far – it’s working! The jobs created, the revenue raised, the popular growth of our BringMeTheNews platform added more than a hundred thousand new users in just the last few months.

It turns out the re-invention business has been a tremendous business to jump into. We’re doing it here every day. To a person – living it personally and professionally.

You should come in sometime… if there’s one thing we really like more than actively building things… it’s imagining what’s next.

Learn more about the work I’m doing at www.rickkupchella.com/endeavors

Posted in GK Thinking

Rick Kupchella

Rick has worked for over two decades as an investigative reporter and television news anchor. Winner of more than a dozen Emmys, he’s also been recognized repeatedly by the New York International Film Festival, the “Best of Gannett,” the Edward R. Murrow Awards and the Eric Sevareid Awards (presented by the Minnesota Broadcasters Association). Rick has also served as president of the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and worked on campaigns to advance journalism at the state capital and Supreme Court. At BringMeTheNews, he continues to produce news stories of his own and works to advance journalism by helping the public find the best news stories in the state – every day. Rick is an equity partner with GoKart Labs.

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2 Comments

  1. Gene Nelson says:

    Love the site. As we travel across the country in our RV for some 7 months or so, I am always able to log on and view what is important to me back in Minn. with non biased writing.
    Thanks for stepping OUT and UP Rick.

  2. [...] a new article entitled “Why I had to Adapt or Die”, BringMeTheNews founder and CEO Rick Kupchella writes that, “In the end – when you think about [...]