Mark Contreras Takes the Helm as NAA Chair

By: Jennifer Saba

The past year has been especially unkind to newspaper publishers, so it’s little surprise that the organization that represents executives in the C-suites, the Newspaper Association of America, is getting its knocks too. The association’s staff has been slashed more than 50%, the scope of its mission reduced and its membership dues cut.

This is the environment Mark Contreras, E.W. Scripps’ senior vice president of newspapers, will inherit when he picks up the gavel to assume the position as NAA chairman on April 12. With a newly streamlined organization that is focusing on lobby/legal issues, communications and revenue, audience and digital development, Contreras talks with E&P about leading the NAA and the industry. But not before giving some shout-outs to other NAA staffers including CEO and President John Sturm, Senior Vice President of Public Policy Paul Boyle, Senior Vice President of Business Development Randy Bennett and Director of Communications Jeff Sigmund.

Q: You mentioned several key initiatives that you want the NAA to focus on, including rallying the industry to come up with a standard Internet measure. Explain that goal, and why it matters.

It’s critical for us to get value out of the digital audience we have created. We need to create uniform online audience definitions and standards. The reason it has not happened is that so many players are in the mix IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau), MRC (Market Rating Council) and all of the measuring agencies. Frankly, the interests of publishers and advertisers are slightly different, and the reality that exists creates an imbalance tilted slightly toward the advertisers ? it keeps CPMs depressed.

Clearly we have not been the loudest voice at the table yet, and I would like to change that. I want to make sure that newspapers are a very loud voice in that debate. I want to make sure there is clear acknowledgment the newspaper industry is not dead and we are still here, and we will come roaring back.

Q: Membership is down. What do you plan to do to draw newspapers back in to the flock?

Like you would suspect, there has been slippage with two or three big players. You will hear about Cox coming back and Lee coming back and a couple of others. Those are the fairly big companies but there is still a lot of work we have to do. We are going to talk to the board in taking a much more active role reaching out to other newspapers.

Q: It appears the industry has abandoned the NAA at a time when it probably needs it most.

In fairness for each company, it’s really hard to imagine in the last two or three years the amount of financial pressure every publisher has had. Frankly, the dues stuck out enough that they became candidates for cutting.

The dues structure has come way down ? 2010 dues are roughly half of 2009. The sharpening of the focus to three things makes it easy to explain what you are getting when you become a member.

I think with a sharpened focus and some added sense of financial stability, my hope is you will start hearing some tangible examples of what the NAA has accomplished.

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