Today, the veteran of seven previous start-ups is involved in his eighth, serving as President and Chief Executive Officer of WOW3D Group, LLC, a Knoxville-based media company focused on the convenience store market.
In a recent interview with teknovation.biz, Newman described his journey from the early days of commercial FM radio to his newest endeavor, rolling out a “3D without glasses” technology for point of sale advertising in the burgeoning convenience store market.
“Geoff (Robson) contacted me to look at the company,” Newman says of WOW3D. “He saw a well-defined, large market opportunity needing someone with a media and advertising background.”
What Newman found was “a very good product,” but a marketing and sales plan that was not as viable. “They had very smart people, but they were being asked to do too many things.”
Since joining WOW3D as a partner in 3 Degrees (Robson’s firm) and now as WOW3D’s top executive, Newman has drawn on more than three decades of management, sales and marketing experience to grow WOW3D as it systematically rolls-out its “Convenience Network.”
Two-year old WOW3D is now in more than 100 convenience stores with 46-inch, 3D monitors delivering information – from specials in the store to local weather and news and even commercials for specific products. Each screen is fed by a local computer, and the content, which is delivered via the Internet, can be customized for each location or brand. Knoxville stores include multiple Pilot, KenJo, Rocky Top and Bread Box locations.
“One out of every $22 spent in this country is spent in a convenience store,” Newman said, adding that the sales percentage is expected to grow as convenience stores expand product offerings and develop concierge-type services.
“As a result, you will start seeing a shift in advertising dollars to influence consumers as they spend,” he believes.
Newman cites the “Twice Daily” concept that has been launched in Nashville by the Daily’s chain as an example of the convenience store of the future. In addition to traditional products, “Twice Daily” stores include what the company describes as “fresh stations” – one each for coffee, cold beverages, bakery, deli, and hot foods –and even hosts and hostesses.” Daily’s says that they are “ready to help, because when you come to Twice Daily, you’re not a customer … you’re our guest.”
WOW3D has built its product around capturing the attention of the customers who come to a convenience store for a specific reason – a quick trip to meet an immediate need.
“You have a chance to influence someone who has their wallet in their hands,” Newman explains of the business strategy. With the declining viewership for local radio and television, WOW3D fills an important advertising gap for local advertisers and the more than 3,000 products in convenience stores.
Newman, who is a Vietnam veteran, was not always in sales and marketing. He had been a high school teacher for five years in Oregon when he was looking for a summer job in the mid-1970s. FM radio was just emerging as a competitor to AM radio, and Newman was offered a job in sales at a local FM station.
“Being a school teacher was a great training experience for sales,” he says, noting that he taught debate, speech and drama as well as coaching baseball.
Newman found the new role exciting, so he accepted an offer to become the station’s Sales Manager. Over the next 10 years, he moved around the western part of the country, working at television stations in places like Portland and Reno, including bringing a new TV station online. One of his employers was Scripps which provided an introduction to Ken Lowe, the founder of Home and Garden Television (HGTV).
Lowe offered him a job on two occasions. Newman says he declined the first offer, but readily accepted the second one in 1994 to join the HGTV “launch team” as head of sales and advertising TV. That decision brought the Newman family to Knoxville.
For the next six years, Newman helped rollout the new cable channel. “I was travelling 44 weeks a year,” he said. “I needed to do something else.”
The something else involved a partial relocation to Oregon, where he helped launch Measure Cast, a venture-backed, Arbitron-like technology that measured the exact number of listeners for online streaming services.
“It was ahead of its time,” Newman says.
During his time with Measure Cast, Newman commuted between the new job and Knoxville where the family remained. When the gig with Measure Cast ended, he accepted a position back in the television industry in Oregon, but his wife did not want to move.
So, Newman found a job in Knoxville that he described as “a six-month deal” to help determine if EonStreams, a local venture-backed company, could be viable. That short commitment turned into a seven-year journey as EonStreams was sold to VitalStream with a significant return to its local investors. Newman remained with the acquirer for about two and one-half years.