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September 01, 2016 | Tom Ballard

Critical technology upgrades at the gas pump offer opportunity for NewsBreak Media

NewsBreak Media(EDITOR’S NOTE: NewsBreak Media Networks, the subject of today’s feature post, and PYA Analytics are hosting a “lunch and learn” during the upcoming “Innov865 Week.” For more details, read this recent article from or click on this link to register. NewsBreak Media is also one of three finalists for the “Traction Awartd” in this month’s “Start-up Day” event.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

In a little over a year, all convenience stores and fuel retailers in the country face a critical upgrade to the technology that is deployed at their fuel pumps. They will have to be able to accept chip and pin credit cards by October 2017 or assume all responsibility for fraud and liability.

The deadline for convenience stores presents a significant growth opportunity for NewsBreak Media Networks, a very lean, emerging, Knoxville-based company founded in 2009.

“We’re planning to capitalize on the timing of the upgrade in the technology and infrastructure,” Brian Nelson, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer, says of the October 2017 deadline.

The company, best known to Knoxville readers for its short news and weather updates available at Pilot Food Marts, Rocky Top Markets and Weigel’s convenience stores, was profiled about 18 months ago in this article. A good deal has changed since then.

“Local ad sales generated through a pump-top television network were the primary source of revenue for us in 2009,” Bob Bradley, NewsBreak Chief Executive Officer, says. “We have pivoted from a hardware driven, ad sales business to a software centric, programmatic merchandising company.”

That transformation is reflected in everything from the new display screen technology that customers see in the Salt Lake City market to the integration of advanced data analytics software for NewsBreak Media’s convenience store customers.

“We started with 21-inch dispenser top units (DTUs) that are placed above the fuel pump and feature local advertising,” Bradley says of the earlier deployments in Tennessee. Customers will see them in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Nashville.

“We have evolved to a 10.5-inch screen that is integrated into the point-of-sale system and features branded merchandising content for each convenience store,” he says of the evolution. The latter is what is now available in Utah through a strategic partnership with Bennett Pump Company.

The pivot to a SaaS (software as a service) model allows NewsBreak Media to better control costs since it no longer has the high capital requirements associated with the DTUs. It also opens opportunities to move from a locally-driven advertising strategy to one that is better able to scale and target national brands.

“This integrated technology will also allow us to evolve from location specific content to a personalized, one-on-one experience,” Nelson said.

Both changes are important to an enterprise that currently operates with only three full-time employees. The third team member is Dax Warden, the resident technical operations guru who oversees technology deployed to 864 different display screens across five states.

The changes will allow NewsBreak Media to deliver more value to the convenience store operators it serves. After all, as Bradley and Nelson explain, there is more profit for convenience store retailers selling items inside a store than just gasoline at the pump.

NewsBreak has partnered with Avrio Analytics to introduce a predictive analytics feature to the software that will drive its programmatic merchandising platform. With these enhancements, NewsBreak is able to build client specific algorithms that deliver content playlists to each location. The playlists are then distributed to its pump-top TV and in-store screen network, as well as to retailer mobile applications.

“This is a dynamic industry that is consolidating,” Bradley says of the convenience store sector. While there are 153,000 locations nationally, he estimates that over the next few years, 60 percent will be owned by large convenience store chains that operate 50 or more retail locations.

NewsBreak Media currently has a strategic partnership with Bennett Pump, one of the three major manufacturers of gasoline pumps, but can integrate with pumps produced by the other two big players – Gilbarco Veeder-Root and Wayne Fueling Systems.

“We have developed our content distribution software to be platform agnostic,” Nelson says. “This allows us to integrate quickly and seamlessly into existing content management networks that are already in place.

With the October 2017 deadline approaching, Bradley says NewsBreak Media just launched a Series A2 funding round. The monies will enable additional software development, purchase of the hardware “brain” that powers each location, and sales and marketing efforts.

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