Who says aggregation doesn’t pay?
BringMeTheNews, Rick Kupchella’s Minneapolis-based startup, announced Sunday it’s received a combined $1 million investment from two recognizable Minneapolis firms, Dolan Media and local p.r. firm Padilla Speer Beardsley. The not-quite-year-old Bring — which uses wide-ranging local news aggregation to create a Minnesota-focused website and radiocasts — plans to expand into sports and other states.
I’ll have more insight after I speak with the investors and Kupchella today. But here are a few quick thoughts I’ll test on the principals:
1. Jim Dolan (who, like PSB’s Lynn Casey, will join Bring’s board) is becoming quite the web noodler. Among his nation-wide newspaper and legal-services holdings, he owns Politics in Minnesota, which will debut a fairly high paywall Aug. 16. Politics in Minnesota has been staffing up, and it looks like Bring will, too. Dolan says he doesn’t plan on integrating Bring offerings into his existing properties, for now, anyway.
2. The p.r. investment reflects Bring’s link mix. The site, managed by local journalist Tom Elko, has been unabashed about nuking banner ads; the alternative is “sponsored content” mixed into Bring’s piles of story links. Bring execs contend this labeled content is less obnoxious than common web come-ons and actually has some information value for readers; United Health Group’s shiny consumer-oriented face, OptumHealth, has been a consistent advertiser; Explore Minnesota is another biggie.
While Internet traffic estimators don’t show high visitor counts for Bring, my guess is sponsors like what they’re seeing on link referrals. There’s lot of interest in ads that don’t look like ads, something PSB’s Casey refers to in the news release.
3. I wonder how much of this is a traditional media play. The shiny web stuff gets insiders’ attention, but perhaps Bring should be thought of more as a radio news service with an online component. As stations have downsized in a tough economy, many have whacked even the vestigial news staffs they had. For personality-driven music and talk stations, why not outsource news to a cheaper specialist, especially if the payment is ad inventory that isn’t necessarily sold out anyway?
Clear Channel Communications, which owns KFAN, K102 and KDWB, is a major Bring customer; that chain has 800 stations nationwide and many major-market clusters. Think there aren’t some economies of scale to be realized there? Kupchella’s name won’t necessarily open doors elsewhere as it has here, and aggregating news market-by-market isn’t quite as cheap as doing it nationally, but Jim Dolan and Lynn Casey probably have a few contacts that can open doors.
4. While there are a ton of sports aggregators, most don’t have a traditional-media toehold, though you’re seeing more pairings with newspapers. We all know how sports drives web traffic, so it’s a sensible experiment for Bring.
By the way, Bring’s foray into original reporting didn’t really pan out; when the site first launched, I heard grumbling from some traditional-media execs about Kupchella’s making dough off their work. It’s not like AP, which is a member consortium — and by the way, has a radio service. Bring does give originating sites credit and linkbacks on the web, but radio-side credits only happen if a single media source breaks a story.
More after I do my interviews.