Gannett CEO Mike Reed predicts the future

Appearing on Borrell Associates’ Local Marketing Trends podcast, Gannett’s leader looks 10 years out at technology, content, audience and data

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Mike Reed has a long-lens vision for Gannett, Co., Inc. It’s foresight that looks a decade ahead to 2032, and he shared it with Borrell Associates’ Gordon Borrell and Corey Elliott on Episode 80 of their co-hosted Local Marketing Trends podcast. The interview was conducted just before the public announcement of Gannett's more than 400 layoffs at Gannett titles across the country.

“What do you think the world will be like 10 years from now?” Borrell asked Reed.

“When I look out eight, 10 years, I think of a few things. One, I think the evolution of technology in this digital era will continue to move rapidly. … Those who embrace those advances in technology and the ways to do business, conduct business and interact with customers will win, and those who can’t will lose. And so, I think it’s going to be important for most businesses to continue to embrace the rapid changes that technology enables,” Reed said.

“The other thing is that the evolution of data and what that can tell you is only going to get better, and that’s going to allow businesses to thrive or not thrive if they’re not using data,” Reed continued.

Reed predicts that social media will evolve, too.

“Right now, social media really contributes greatly to the polarization we have as a society and in this country, and I think that will actually evolve in a positive way that will help drive positive change, versus some of the negative consequences I think we’ve seen from social media so far,” Reed suggested.

But Reed also predicts that he’ll (hopefully) still be able to see the Rolling Stones on tour in 2032.

Borrell, Elliot and Reed also dived into data — expressly, first-party data about Gannett’s massive audience.

 “We have about 150 million unique consumers — visitors — to our content platform every single month, so we’re able to build a large-scale database of first-party data, which allows us to then deliver the best outcomes for business partners. Building our own first-party data systems really is going to allow us to be a career platform for businesses to engage with their consumers,” Reed said.

Gannett's data gleans insight into what news consumers are reading, how much time they spend with the content and what interests them. That data allows Gannett news sites to “deliver much more personalized outcomes through our products,” but most importantly, to grow audience, Reed suggested.

Only about 10% of that audience “consents” to allowing Gannett and partners to contact them about news, updates, products and promotions, Reed estimates.

“So, still small. The majority of our users remain anonymous, but ... through paid subscriptions, through registered users and through our registered email newsletter subscribers, we’re nearing in on 20 million of 150 [million],” Gannett’s CEO reported.

Looking out to the 10-year horizon, Reed said he expects Gannett will still be a “content business.”

“The thing that changes all the time is technology, but what doesn’t change is that content remains king, and that’s our business,” Reed said.

By 10 years out, Reed expects Gannett to be “all digital” and that the company will have a strong, healthy advertising business “because our platform is so large; we have so much scale,” he noted.

Reed is also looking at “transactional revenues” for the company and “other ways to leverage that consumer” beyond advertising and subscriptions.

“I believe that transaction revenue line, which is really small today, will become a meaningful contributor to our revenue and profitability in the future,” he said. The event business and strategic partnerships show promise, too.

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  • enigma58

    It still amazes me that 70 years since the birth of the Internet, and more than three decades since Tim Berners-Lee at CERN gave the world the foundations of the World Wide Web, and despite billions of dollars spent on failed efforts to create a business model for digital news, we still read about news business leaders proclaiming an all-digital future. Here's an easy prediction about the future, 10 years out: The plain old local print newspaper will still exist and Gannett will not exist. Print newspapers will still exist for the same reason that print books still exist...the technology model, old as it is, simply works better than more contemporary alternatives. Meanwhile, Gannett will not exist because the future of the digital media has already been written, and Facebook, Google, Amazon and Netflix (OK, Disney Netflix...trust me, it's coming) are the winners. Gannett is not.

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