BJ Murphy: One Year Later

BJ Murphy: One Year Later

A year ago, a few friends set out to take something we’ve all been used to – daily news publication – and conform it to what the market is really saying.

Cell phones today can be used for anything from your alarm clock to texting a friend; from accessing social media to watching and recording video. Our idea was very simple: how do we put accurate and timely information into the devices that already have everybody’s attention? At the same time, how do we help people consume the types of news stories our grandparents did?

The initial response from our community was slightly overwhelming, but what the people have continued to tell us is that they want accurate information and they want it very fast, in that order.

Where We’ve Been

Looking back at some of the milestones in the past year, I think first about Hurricane Florence, when our young team was put to the test. We had team members spread throughout the community, throughout our three-county area, and we found ways to tell the story of what was happening in our backyard all within this really cool social media, digital age that we’re in. I think that was one of the first defining moments for Neuse News.

What also helped us stand out and showed community and business owners that we were serious about this new way of telling the news was our Election Night coverage in 2018.

What was originally planned to be about an hour and 15 minutes long Facebook Live broadcast with Bryan Hanks and I slowly turned into an almost five-hour marathon of trying to tell the news while waiting for the results to come in. It really stretched out our team, but we came through like a champ. At one point, we have over 330 live viewers, and I’ve never been part of a project that had so many people’s attention at one time.

The last one major defining moment within this first six months was the Kinston Christmas Parade. We continued to show our capability with live streaming events. In this case, we put me, Martha Bishop and Bryan Hanks in front of the camera and used tools that allowed us to communicate to the sound engineers Travis Towne, Matt Lococo and Brandon Potter without interrupting our broadcast right here on Queen Street.

That one video was seen in over 19 states across our country.

Where We Are Now

When we entered the market, we were entering a news industry that literally has been around for centuries. As you look at the other competing news organizations in our area, most of them have been around for 50 to 100 years. That’s everything from your three local TV stations to the local print products.

We were the underdog from day one, and if anyone knows anything about me and the culture we’re building here, it’s that we really like being the underdog.

We like being underestimated because here we are in one year and we’ve already surpassed several of the local newspapers’ daily subscription rates. We’ve eclipsed over 80,000 unique visitors in one month and we have over 10,000 followers on Facebook.

I’ve never been a fan of the vanity of numbers, but what I’ve always been concerned about is whether people are actually engaging. Are they clicking on something? Do they find value in it? Most importantly from our perspective, can we do it and not cost them anything?

When someone comes to, there is no paywall. There are seamless ads that help us underwrite the cost, but there’s no subscription fee.

There’s no AP news on what happens in London, North Korea or D.C. Those topics are important to us, but you can find that information everywhere. What you can’t find anywhere is what the Story Walk book of the month is in Pearson Park.

You can’t find what happened on Herritage Street last week. Some simple parking tickets and an ensuing community discussion led to re-striping of lines. It’s such a simple and small thing, but it’s in those small moments that you really understand what we’re trying to do, and we’re trying to do it in a way that doesn’t cost the consumer anything.

Where We’re Going Next

There are two main questions that we receive consistently.

1. Will Neuse News ever become a print product?

If you’d asked me that a year ago, I would’ve told you that in 12 months we were going to partner with some organizations and put plans in place to produce a weekly product. However, when we hit the three-month mark and we went through the joint trials and excitement of Hurricane Florence, it made us really reflect quite a bit on who we were and what we were trying to do.

It was at that moment we decided to double down with our video and live streaming technology, and it’s really neat, because now we have over 4,000 daily email subscribers who have benefited from the advancement we’ve tried to make in technology.

2. When is Neuse News going to come to my community or go to another community?

Really soon.

About a month ago, I had the chance to speak at Tanglewood Church with a message entitled “Side to Side.” The concept is that you can do about anything you want to in life if you first master some basics. For example, to be a great dancer, one would first master going side to side.

For Neuse News, it’s been about mastering our backyard first with the right people and the right stories and mastering sales.

We will be there, we are coming, and we will win.

On behalf of Neuse News, we want to say thank you. Thank you to the people who have taken a chance with us. To our advertisers, people who have consumed our content, the readers, our subscribers, the people who have liked and commented on a post or joined our We Report Neuse News Facebook group: without you, our little team of underdogs cannot produce what we think the market wants.

So far, we’ve been right, and we want to continue to be right. That only comes from your feedback, so on behalf of our entire team, we just want to say thank you.

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