Tom SilvestriOverheard at the morning town-hall session, led by a lively and engaging Tom Silvestri, president and publisher of the Richmond Times-Dispatch and newly elected president of SNPA (Southern Newspaper Publishers Association).

“What are you most proud of this past year (what’s working)?”

A renewed emphasis on quality … the success of a new lifestyle magazine publishing operation; it’s working even in small 5,000 circulation markets. Creation of our 10 points on how to start a magazine.

Dolph Tillotson, executive vice president, Southern Newspapers, Inc.

Our all access subscription model … a membership model that includes fun membership events such as movies, barbecue, food truck rodeos, pet fairs, local author signings/book fair … resulting in the collection of 50 percent of our readers’ email addresses … web traffic up 75 percent since implementing the all access model.

Carol Hudler, special assistant to the president, US Community Publishing, Gannett Co. Inc.

I didn’t jot down who said it, but one publisher was having success with a rejuvenated obit strategy, to which Silvestri asked the room, “Why don’t we write about some of these folks before they die?”

“What keeps you up at night (what's not working)?”

  • Deinvestment in ROP advertising. How to grow ROP?
  • Our ads suck. We need better ads that work, that deliver results for the advertiser.
  • Digital run-of-site not working. The digital guy needs to sit next to national rep. Marry up the digital ad with best placement next to relevant content, just as we do in print. Deliver the right ad to right audience at right time. Where would you put that remnant ad if it were in print? Out front? So why do it in digital?
  • Lack of brand loyalty from millennials.
  • Ad sales training.
  • Video.
  • Morale, attitudes.
  • Recruiting, retaining staff. Pay rates can't remain so low.
  • The struggle to grow market share.

The way forward (suggestions from the town hall)

  • Inject enthusiasm in the news organization and the community. Make some noise.
  • Work is overwhelming. Do one thing really well each day, it builds morale. Get one thing right rather than dozens of things average.
  • Groups (work groups within an organization -- our news companies and organizations, too -- need to work together. Competition is good, but we need to build partnerships to battle outside competition.
  • Make a staff video to a popular song: newspapering should be fun
  • Small town but not small time.
  • Don't be apologetic for the value you produce every day. Be bold.

Overheard later in the day

Newspapers are available at unprecedented low multiples, offering compelling investment opportunities. I see trend to return to local ownership.

— Jeremy Halbreich, founder, chairman, CEO, AIM Media

The past can't buy the future, the future must be built.

Brock Berry, senior vice president, AdTaxi Networks

Sell benefits, not features … but we tend to sell features, not benefits. Sell results. Sell the package, not the individual products. The dashboard closes sale. Don't sell transactional ... four months should be the minimum commitment.

Craig Diebel, vice president/digital, classified advertising and marketing, Fort Worth Star-Telegrm, and Charity Huff, founder and general manager, Tru Measure.

Brian Steffens  
Director of Communications


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