E&P’s 2014 Publisher of the Year: Karen Andreas, North of Boston Media Group

By: Nu Yang

E&P's 2014 Publisher of the Year: Karen Andreas, North of Boston Media Group

During her work day, Karen Andreas doesn’t stop moving. She starts around 6:30 a.m. She checks her email, does laundry and plans her family’s schedule. Sometimes, she has an early morning meeting or event. If not, she’s in the office by 9 a.m. There are phone calls to make, emails to write and staff to meet.

“There are lots of community events and meetings to attend, but the focus must be on our readers and advertisers,” she said.

When she received the news she was our 2014 Publisher of the Year, the 48-year-old Andreas said she was “stunned and overwhelmed.” But this award is just one highlight in her long journalism career.

Andreas graduated in 1988 from the University of New Hampshire with a bachelor’s degree in English and journalism. At 20, she landed her first reporting internship at the Daily News of Newburyport, Mass., and during her senior year of college, she interned at the Boston Globe. Over the years, she’s held numerous titles in the newsroom: reporter, lifestyles editor, city editor, managing editor and editor-in-chief. In 2004, she was named executive editor and vice president of news with the Eagle-Tribune Publishing Co. in North Andover, Mass. Three years later, she was named publisher of The Salem News in Beverly, Mass. She spent five years in that position before being promoted in March 2013 to regional publisher of the North of Boston Media Group, home to parent company’s Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. chain of Massachusetts and New Hampshire newspapers. As regional publisher, Andreas leads a combined staff of 375 employees in seven locations.

In addition, Andreas also sits on the board of directors with the New England Newspaper and Press Association and the Massachusetts Publishers Association’s executive committee.

Some publishers might have jumped at the chance to move to a bigger city or paper, but Andreas has remained faithful to community journalism. “I love the area and my co-workers,” she said. “I know I’ve been blessed with this opportunity, and it’s worked out really well that I can stay.”

 

Working as One Team

The North of Boston Media Group consists of four daily newspapers in Massachusetts: flagship paper and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, The Eagle-Tribune; Gloucester Daily News; Salem News; and the Daily News of Newburyport. The group also publishes the following weeklies: The Andover Townsman and The Haverhill Gazette, and New Hampshire’s The Derry News, Let’s Go!, and the Carriage Towne News.

Previously, each daily paper had its own publisher, but after an executive reorganization, the positions were eliminated and Andreas was named sole publisher of the entire media group. She knew each newsroom would have to adjust to these changes, and her first step was to create a sense of teamwork.  When she asked the newsrooms to work together as one, she found it was not difficult at all.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Andreas said when she became regional publisher. “But everyone understood that in order to succeed we had to restructure.”

North of Boston Media Group general manager Jim Falzone said, “Our group of newspapers did not do a great job of working together (but) when Karen was appointed regional publisher, we quickly started maximizing synergies between the properties and sharing resources.”

Now instead of sending four different reporters to cover a story, only one reporter is assigned. The photo department was also reorganized, making it possible for photographers to cover all locations. “I know it sounds crazy,” Andreas said. “Like why didn’t this happen sooner? But it didn’t happen naturally.”

 Eagle-Tribune managing editor Tracey Rauh said each newsroom no longer had to act like competitors; now they had to work as a team. She also saw a more cohesive working environment at each paper when Andreas took the helm. “She has the uncanny ability to get right to the problem. She makes sure the editorial side and the advertising sides are open with each other and understand each other’s jobs.”

“I’ve seen her take the time to explain a complete magazine profit and loss statement to a salesperson to illustrate a point about rate integrity,” Falzone said. “And she’s explained the concept of a news budget to non-editorial people. She does this in a very helpful and nurturing way that I’ve just never seen other publishers do before.”

Salem News editor Dave Olson appreciates Andreas’ open door and views her not only as his boss, but as his colleague. “I know I can bounce ideas off her. She’s not afraid to disagree and show you a different way, but at the same time, you can change her mind too.”

  Not only was Andreas in charge of several newsrooms in transition, but one of Andreas’ toughest decisions was converting from youth carriers to 100 percent adult carriers and true morning delivery for all dailies.

Andreas said a lot of work went into the project: remapping more than 250 routes, hiring new carriers and training staff on new delivery procedures and handling customer service requests. She admits the first 30 days were tough. “I took many calls from readers,” she said. “Readers saying the paper wasn’t being put where it usually goes…I took each call, and I even drove out and met some of them and delivered their paper myself.”

But she credited her circulation department for their work. “For every call I got,” she said, “they got 10 more.”

To keep the team spirit up, Andreas said she told them, “Remember it will pass. We just have to stick together.” And if her team still needed a bit more pep, “Buy them food. Cookies really worked,” she said with a laugh.

In her new position, Andreas also oversaw two other large projects: the formation of a centralized copy desk and the creation of a national ad design hub based out of the North Andover office. In addition to Massachusetts, the hub now produces ads for newspapers in Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois and New Hampshire with plans to bring in newspapers from at least three more states within the next year.

 

Thinking like a Reader

Andreas always has the reader in mind, which is why she encourages her staff to think like one.

“I’ve been saying (think like a reader) for so long I don’t remember where it came from,” she said. But she does credit something created by one of her designers: The Reader Box.

The Reader Box, Andreas explained, breaks out the important facts in the story (the who, what, when and why). Essentially, it’s about giving the readers what they want, from school lunch menus to hard-hitting enterprise pieces.

In March, Andreas launched North of Boston Business magazine. The quarterly publication features business profiles, advice columns, and trend and technology stories. Andreas also publishes several other glossy magazines: The Andovers Magazine, Marblehead Home and Style, The Readings Magazine, Cape Ann Magazine and Newburyport Magazine.

She also published three coffee table books featuring local and regional subjects. Each press run is contained to 1,200 to 1,500 copies. A recent book focused on the city of Newburyport has already sold out, and when a submission call for North Boston veterans went out for another book, they received more than 1,000 stories.

“It was such a successful book, we turned the book launch into a community event filled with vets and speakers,” Andreas said.

Despite these new, successful print revenue streams, Andreas is dealing with a declining print circulation like other newspaper publishers. This year, she made the decision to install metered websites. According to Falzone, the launch at the four dailies led to 1,450 digital-only subscribers in less than five months.

“I anticipated much more pushback,” Andreas said. “But readers seemed to understand that quality journalism meant paying our folks.”

Andreas called the launch “fast and furious,” a big project that was guided by corporate. So far, she said, “The numbers look good, and we already hit our budget goal.”

In addition, Andreas spearheaded eight redesigned websites, mobile sites and apps this past summer. “We wanted to create a great experience,” she said. “Again, think like a reader. Make it easy to navigate, simplistic and creative.”

She still advocates for print, but she knows readership online is up and will continue to grow. According to Andreas, total page views for the media group recently hit 10.1 million, and total users per month amount to 1.2 million.

“Our biggest area of growth has been with mobile. Of the 10.1 million page views, some 70 percent are coming from mobile devices,” she said. “We have to be there for our readers, however and whenever they want.”

Andreas stresses it’s not print versus digital, but making sure readers look at both places. She also makes sure her sales representatives understand the same thing, and she’s known for going out on sales calls with her reps.

“She makes it very clear that we need to make fiscally responsible decisions that grow audience,” Falzone said. “She does not shy away from the fact that her background is editorial and local news is our product.  That provides a different perspective and focus than a publisher with a background in finance, advertising or circulation.”

 

In the Community

Outside of the newsroom, Andreas is as active with the community as she is with her newsrooms. “Relationships are very important,” she said. “(Residents) have to trust in the paper and in me.”

Andreas lives in Danvers, Mass. with her husband, Mike, and two sons, Nick, 18, and Matt, 15. “No matter where I go, people want to talk about the paper, and I love that. It means they care, so when they call and complain (There’s no barrier there since Andreas picks up her own office phone), it shows they care enough. If they stop calling, then we’re in trouble.”

As past chairman of the North Shore Chamber of Commerce board of directors, Andreas led monthly board meetings as well as monthly events for the entire membership of about 1,600 businesses. She moderated those events, which featured a guest speaker or panel, and often 200 to 300 people would attend.

In addition to the chamber, she is currently involved with the Northern Essex Community College foundation board, Board of Overseers for Salem State University, Essex National Heritage board, Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Salem Partnership, and the Lawrence Partnership. Her newest job? President of the football team’s booster club.

“I have trouble saying no sometimes,” Andreas said jokingly. “I know these are all time commitments, but you have to set priorities. This lets me give back and invest. Publishers should be a part of the community and be the face of their paper.”

 

Playing the Game

As a big college football fan (she roots for the Florida Gators), Andreas knows she has to surround herself with talented people. “That’s the key to success,” she said. When she heard she was being named Publisher of the Year, she thought, “This can’t be about me.”

“It’s about my staff, my team,” she said. “It’s about them.”

“So, you’re like a captain?” I asked.

“More like a coach,” Andreas said. “A coach isn’t anything without talent, and I’m a coach with a lot of talent.”

Andreas said she’s been fortunate enough to work with “great bosses” who have helped guide her along the way.

“They understand I’m a mom and I have children,” she said. “They know family comes first, but I will get the work done. I do the same with my employees. If they’re having family issues, I tell them, ‘Go take care of your family.’”

Andreas also credits her “feisty” grandmother, who told her she could do anything if she believed in herself and didn’t quit. Andreas, who grew up in a large Italian family, was the first person in her family to go to college, and the first to move away and start a career. She advises young journalists, particularly female journalists, to find mentors and to ask for help when needed.

Looking ahead, Andreas said she wants to focus on growing the North of Boston Media Group brand and continue as the leading source of news in the region. Andreas admits she operates with “healthy skepticism,” and understands there are good and bad days, but at the end, she’s proud of the products they put out. “We’ve been through a lot of changes, yet there have been a lot of positive results.”

“She helped us get beyond the dark part of the recession,” Rauh said, when asked about Andreas’ strengths. “There’s this light now, and not all of us in the industry experience that light. It takes a certain leader to show that to people.

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