10th Annual Key Executives Mega-Conference Kicks-Off in Fort Worth

  • “Revenue Strategies and Diversification" panel (from left): John Wulfert, chief revenue officer of Belo + Company; Liz White, publisher and executive vice president of the Record-Journal Media Group; Howard Griffin, USA TODAY Network senior vice president of national retail sales; and moderator Samantha Johnston, general manager of Colorado Mountain News Media West and publisher of the Aspen Times. (Photo by Nu Yang)

Now in its 10th year, the Key Executives Mega-Conference kicked-off today in Fort Worth, Texas with a welcome from Fort Worth Star-Telegram publisher Ryan Mote and segued into the first opening general session “Revenue Strategies and Diversification.”

Moderated by Samantha Johnston, general manager of Colorado Mountain News Media West and publisher of the Aspen Times, the panel shared new revenue opportunities that worked for them. Liz White, publisher and executive vice president of the Record-Journal Media Group, shared how events helped her company go from $25,000 to $235,000 in three years. John Wulfert, chief revenue officer of Belo + Company, said that after seeing newspapers try new projects, only to see them outsource them and then try to bring them back inhouse, Belo + Company was created as one division with many services, including social media and data analytics, to help publishers. USA TODAY Network senior vice president of national retail sales Howard Griffin said that even though their print products still work, they have been able to grow in other areas, such as 756,000 paid digital-only subscribers and with premium video content.

Confused about all the media “disruptors” in today’s world? Panelists on the “Clear Paths to Profitability in an Unclear Media Environment” shared how they found clarity on their hunt. Leonard Woolsey, publisher and president of the Galveston County (Texas) Daily News and president of Southern Newspapers, Inc. revealed his formula was revenue + expense=loss. As traditional revenue activity (such as advertising, circulation and commercial printing) adds more revenue streams (such as events, digital services and specialized printing), the “slices” of the business apple pie will grow and change over the years with the advertising portion shrinking, although publishers still want to the apple pie to be 12 inches across. Judi Terzotis, president and publisher of the Times-Picayune and Advocate, said profitability started with her talent and they all needed to have “two feet in, or two feet out.”

Later in the day, panelists on the “Value Proposition: Spread the Word About Newspaper’s Worth in Your Community” shared how they were telling their communities their story. At the Dallas Morning News, a new website and new marketing campaign asked readers what mattered to them. Director of brand marketing Jessica Baldwin also shared how a voter registration drive/guide called Vote About It helped voter turnout increase from 6 percent to 9 percent the following year. Bill Barker of Gannett and USA TODAY Network, shared how the power of press was still important in today’s media climate, while Alan Fisco, president and chief financial officer of the Seattle Times, presented how an end of the year message from himself and publisher Frank Blethen and through special coverage-related events helps his paper connect with his audience.

The last general session centered on alternative sources for sustainable news operations. Panelists included Fraser Nelson, vice president of business innovation at the Salt Lake Tribune, who shared the story of how the Tribune went from a for-profit to a nonprofit in just a matter of months last year; Annie Madonia, chief advancement officer at the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, spoke about how a culture of philanthropy helped them grow from 32 donors in 2016 to 580 donors who gave $3 million to the Institute; and Tim Ritchey, president and publisher of the Fresno Bee, shared how a newly-funded Education Lab will bring more attention to education issues that are critical to the community. Moderator Jennifer Preston of the Knight Foundation also shared how they will give $300 million over five years to various journalistic endeavors.

The busy day filled with bright ideas and revenue-generated strategies ended with a welcome reception in the exhibit hall with drinks and food.

A complete program can be viewed on the Mega-Conference website.

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