Web entrepreneurs hope to hook young people on the news

New site offers quizzes on current events, entertainment, sports

September 29, 2014|By Arthur Hirsch | The Baltimore Sun

How much do you know about the week's new events? Or the geography of the Middle East? Or Batman movies?

Coleman Anderson and his partner, Andrew Schuster, are betting a few hundred thousand of their investors' dollars that whatever you know, you'll want to test yourself, and that you're willing to spend time in the pursuit on their new website: Newsup.

"The goal really is to make news a more meaningful experience for folks," especially young people, said Anderson, the chief marketing officer, who is 29.

The site — http://www.newsup.me — presents news about national and world events, entertainment and sports in the form of an array of brief quizzes on a particular topic. The basics of the Syrian civil war, the escapades of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, and trivia about Batman on film, for instance, are each covered in eight questions.

Sample question on Rob Ford: "Ford claimed he smoked crack cocaine under what conditions?"

Answer: "Probably in one of my drunken stupors."

The reader who wants to learn more can click on the correct answer boxes that appear with quiz results, linking to more reading on news sites such as Reuters, CNN, the BBC, Fox News and the International Business Times.

"News is becoming very bite-sized, fast-food, headline-driven, click-bait-y," Anderson said. "Nobody has any deeper context beyond the topic du jour."

He and Schuster, the CEO, hope the site will encourage readers to want to know more. They also hope to make money, having raised about a half-million dollars from investors to get the project off the ground and launching the site in August. Based in Baltimore, the company now has five full-time employees, including Anderson and Schuster, and some freelancers.

The enterpreneurs and their supporters will celebrate the launch and announce site updates and future plans at a gathering Thursday in Towson.

The site will run advertising but also produce content that may have a tie-in with a particular advertiser, Anderson said. A quiz, for instance, might end by ushering the reader to an advertiser's site to shop. The quizzes the reader chooses also tell advertisers about their interests, which could allow advertisers to target their pitches to their best audience.

The site was born out of a personal connection between Anderson and Schuster, and the business incubator, AccelerateBaltimore, a public-private venture launched in late 2011 by the Emerging Technology Center, a project of the Baltimore Development Corp.

Anderson and Schuster, who turns 28 this week, crossed paths on the local music scene. Both are musicians and were managing bands when they met. Anderson eventually went to work as the events director for Schuster's online project, ChangeUp Magazine, a publication geared to younger people that has since folded.

Anderson and Schuster's business that would become Newsup Inc. was among the first group of four to be chosen for the AccelerateBaltimore program in 2012. Since then, they've been refining the idea, building the site and raising money.

Chris Brandenburg, one of their investors, met Anderson and Schuster while serving as a mentor for AccelerateBaltimore.

"They've got a lot of energy for the problem they're trying to solve," said Brandenburg, who was co-founder of Millennial Media, a mobile advertising platform company based in Baltimore. The problem, as he sees it, is to "get people, especially people of their generation, more interested in long-form content."

Anderson said they hope to cultivate a reliable audience of people who will return to the site often, not "random traffic … we want to drive engagement."

arthur.hirsch@baltsun.com

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