Nine years ago today, May 28, 2011, Newport Buzz was born!
Does creating this site make way back when make me the smartest guy in the room or the dumbest dude you’ve ever met? I don’t know, but here’s the story of the birth of Newport Buzz.
In January of 2011, I was living in New York City and working as a producer. I had recently been laid off from UGO, an online media division of Hearst Corporation, where I primarily worked as an entertainment producer in New York, Los Angeles, Vancouver, and San Francisco.
Life was good, but that job went away.
So a good friend of mine decided that my new calling was to work as a producer on television commercials primarily for the banks and pharmaceutical companies, I did have some cool clients as well. I also was an associate producer on an award winning documentary about the impact of NYC subway suicides on the motormen.
Anyway, I digress.
In late January 2011, I came home to Newport for a weekend and when I went out for dinner that night, I went on my phone to find out what was happening in Newport that evening. Annnnnnddddd…..THERE WAS NOTHING ONLINE. ZERO!
No online media in Newport. I couldn’t believe it because that’s how I navigated my life in New York City (and Boston and DC but those are other stories) for umteen years.
So after dinner that night, I went back to my parents home and crawled into my childhood bed…and just stared at the ceiling all night. I didn’t sleep a wink. When suddenly it hit me, I was moving home to create Newport’s first online media company.
As luck would have it my lease at my ridiculously overpriced, Jr one-bedroom, 6th floor walk-up (98 stairs, I counted) 14th Street, Union Square apartment was expiring at the end of February. So I told my management company that I wasn’t renewing and moved home excited about my new venture.
Only one problem, I didn’t know how to build a website. BUT my friend Bob Edenbach, my dear friend who then and now lived in Tokyo, did. So I basically begged Bob to build the site for me and he agreed.
For a guy who knew nothing about building websites or really anything else for that matter, i was a complete pain in Bob’s ass. (Thank you, Bobby! I can never repay your kindness.)
So while this is going on, Alex Sumberg, another childhood friend of mine wanted in. Only problem was, Alex lived and still lives in Hawaii. But whatever, he’s full of great ideas so he was onboard too. (note: “Get the 411 in the 401” was Alex’s)
So we built it, we created a vision, a media plan…you name it, we were all faking it!
When It came time to officially launch the company, I brought Lady Gaga’s DJ Lady Starlight and my friends Hank and Cupcakes up from NYC, and Newport’s very own Skinny Millionaires to play my launch party at Dockside on 4th of July Weekend.
I lost a fuck ton of dough on the launch party but it was worth it. Thank for backstopping me, mom and dad!
Anyway I was off and running. I learned that one smart person could out maneuver a staff of 30 in the legacy old dinosaur media companies.
I’ve often thought that if the Newport Daily News was online at the time, I would have never attempted to create Newport Buzz. Never! But they weren’t and they got into the game very late.
When I broke the story about Newport’s Louise White winning the Powerball a full 13 hours before any other media company, the dinosaurs were very mad. Whatever, I won and they lost.
Some weird things have happened along the way.
There was an amazing new band out of Canada called Walk of the Earth and when I put their song on the Newport Buzz Facebook page, it went crazy viral and they became super famous. I think the video had something like 60 million views on our FB page. They were so happy about it, they told me I could release all of their new songs. So I did but their big bad record label wasn’t impressed so they had Facebook rip down my page for a month and they threatened to sue me. We worked it out so all is good now.
Then there was the time that Facebook labeled a Newport Buzz post the FIRST fake news post on the internet. Here’s what happened, there’s a liberal news site called Daily Kos and they allow anyone to repurpose their content as long as they give them credit. So I used one of their posts about Irish Slaves that apparently wasn’t true. Well even though Daily Kos had that post up on their site for years, when I shared it, Facebook came after me with a vengeance and now I own the mantle of the first media site flagged for fake news.
And then there was the time that I dared write the SAME article as every media company in New England about the Black Ships Festival dispute with the City of Newport. Only problem was that my father Harry Winthrop was Mayor of Newport and Spencer Viner from the Black Ships was a cry baby who didn’t like it when my father wanted to take a look at his books and how he spent City of Newport money.
Are you keeping up? I wrote the SAME article as everyone else but Spencer Viner and the Black Ships Festival decided to sue me in FEDERAL COURT for writing the name Black Ships. Obviously Spencer knew he had no case, he was just trying to take a shot at my father and hoped he could cost me some money along the way. But guess what? The ACLU stepped in to defend me and by the end of the day Spencer Viner and his minions had folded like cheap suits, peed and puked all over themselves and ran to Federal Court to dismiss the lawsuit before they got in big trouble for filing a frivolous lawsuit.
Along the way, some good things happened as well. We teamed up with the Preservation Society to throw Heather Abbot’s welcome home party at Rosecliff after she tragically lost her leg in the Boston Marathon Bombing and we’ve raised 10s of thousands of dollars for local charities, childhood cancer patients, families who lost homes to fires, hurricane relief, scholarship funds, field trips, Christmas wishes and more…
And we even found a few missing dogs and cats here and there! And none of it would have been possible without you!
Through it all, this platform has led me to meet some amazing people. Rock stars, race car drivers, movie stars, TV stars, pro athletes, super models and even royalty.
But the number one thing that I treasure the most is that I get to speak with you everyday. Without you, there’d be nothing. Without you I’d be lost.
So thank you, to all my readers, from the bottom of my heart. You help me get out of my comfort zone, you push me to be better, you make me want to be better. You guys make all the silly internet troll attacks worth it. You really do!
And thank you to my family of amazing advertisers and partners who have trusted me, believed in me and allowed me to just be me. I really couldn’t do this without you!!!!
So here’s to nine more!
I’m far from perfect but I do my best everyday and that’s all I can do.
All my best,
PS – and I’ve also managed to create the largest and most engaged audience in all of Newport County. More than the others combined. So there’s that too! 🙂