BJ Murphy: Lessons from starting Neuse News
This morning I showered, didn’t shave, kissed my wife and girls, fed the fish, grabbed my coffee and ran out the door in shorts and a t-shirt all before 6:15 a.m. Not the typical start to a business day for sure. But, hey, I’m in the news business now.
Our Neuse Newsletter goes out to almost 3,000 subscribers at 7 a.m. every day and today’s email needed some final touches to ensure its quality and accuracy. I needed to get to the office because I accidentally left my laptop there while leaving in a hurry yesterday afternoon. I was in a hurry because a citizen posted in our WeReport NeuseNews.com Facebook Group that US 258 South finally opened. Breaking news was happening and I had to go.
Based on chatter over the previous few days, I knew this was something people wanted to be confirmed. Our Neuse News team was short-staffed, spread out, and trapped by the flood waters, so I did a quick video on the scene. And, since I was already on that side of town I headed over to Jones County’s Civic Center with my friends and clients, Jim and Tracy Capps.
We wanted to check on the Jones County central distribution point to see which supplies were needed and to ask County Manager Franky Howard how we could help. Little did we know that Hearts with Hands was trying to organize 30 volunteers for the next two days to box up supplies for the 1,000+ displaced residents throughout the county. So, I went back to the car, grabbed the tripod and mic, and interviewed Dr. Greg Lentz from Asheville.
All in all our team’s videos yesterday accounted for 27,059 views as of this draft. Speaking of the team - we had Aleatha in the office updating all the urgent communications from Duplin, Jones and Lenoir Counties, Junious Smith III and William “Bud” Hardy covering the dominating Ayden-Grifton volleyball team, and Jon Dawson putting the final editing touches on several pieces of content. The rest of us were either in school, temporarily committed elsewhere or landlocked due to road conditions.
And that was just the past 24 hours.
Our little startup began just 104 days ago with a simple mission to provide hyper-local news to communities in or near the Neuse River Basin via a web-based platform with no online subscription fees, no pop-up ads, and no subscription to the Associated Press. And, because of Hurricane Florence, we have temporarily lost our cause’s champion in Bryan Hanks.
He relinquished editorial duties to stay impartial as he helped guide the Lenoir County Emergency Services and Sheriff’s Office through public relations for Hurricane Florence. And, he’s done an outstanding job! Our community is safer because of his efforts to keep us informed.
There are two lessons I’ve learned over the past 104 days - people want accurate information in a timely manner (in that order) and to have a successful marketing strategy one must have people’s attention.
Below you’ll see an infographic of our statistics over these first 104 days. The bottom line is the Neuse News team has people’s attention, not because we’re imploring any contests or click-bait gimmicks, but because we are simply giving people the information they want and the compassion we have for our communities is evident in our work.
Since we are not charging readers for this service we rely on our advertisers to help us stay afloat. Needless to say, many of them took a chance on us as we launched and we are grateful. Hopefully, they have either seen a return on investment, have continued branding their business in a reputable location, and/or they enjoy being a part of a hyper-local news movement.
Over the past few days as Hurricane Florence pounded our area we’ve had people say they would gladly pay for the services we’re already providing to which we respectfully decline. They’ve said other kind things such as:
“I am loving Neuse News! You all have done an excellent job keeping everyone updated during this difficult time for Lenoir County. Thank you for your hard work and dedication!” - Debbie N.
“Honest journalism. Informing the citizens of this community; what we have been needing.” - Cliff R.
“A great source for accurate information!” - Linda S.
“Great work and good reporting. Very grateful for Neuse News.” - Jean W.
“Up to date information and great reporting has helped me through Florence and Neuse River flooding. Daily news with interesting articles, too!” - Linda G.
Our Neuse Neuse team, or as I like to say #TeamNN, is grateful for the incredible show of support. We love our area and want it to succeed. Our success as an organization - as a startup - can only come if our area is successful. Thank you for believing in us and giving us a chance. Thank you for your attention. And, thank you for allowing us to tell your story.