Home' Local Media Today : March 2015 Contents 18 | LOCAL MEDIA TODAY | March 2015
Q&A Matthew Sanders
CONT. FROM PAGE 2
From an industry standpoint, the fundamentals are common. Traditional news
media models are eroding. Newspapers in Latin America and Asia tend to be in better
health than in the U.S. and Europe, but they face an even more daunting reality – that
their readers will soon shift behavior to the internet, but go straight to mobile.
I also observe the similar protectionist tendencies in every market, from Ohio to
Chile, among newspaper owners. It turns out that protectionism never, ever wins in any
setting. It always ends up with distorting or destroying economies or companies rather
than investing in competitive, vibrant businesses.
Q If a media company decided to focus solely on three digital products or market-
places, where would you recommend they start?
A Getting the audience what matters is job one. We recently wrote an article about
the importance of an audience-first mentality: http://solutions.deseretdigital.
By starting on the demand-side of the media question, companies will inevitably disci-
pline their investments toward those that will have the greatest impact on the business.
If we sit back and think we can think up what the market “should” want with content,
commerce, ads, etc., we lose. If we research, test, pilot, and then scale when we’re confi-
dent, we win. Audience growth is crucial. The more audience a media company engages,
the more degrees of freedom and data they have to test and deliver other services, like
travel, events, classifieds, deals, and the like.
Q LMA members consist of media companies of all sizes, with varying degrees of
resources and talents. Are there a couple of tips you can give that would apply to
most when it comes to pushing their digital agendas?
A One of the most important virtues, and the one perhaps I admire more than any
other, is humility. We are in an era in which it is impossible to know everything,
and in particular it is difficult to retool someone with a particular history, heritage, and
skill set and expect them to thrive in a foreign environment. Humility is not weakness, it
is learning, it is courageous, and it requires courage to financers currently unknown. So,
I would put on the top of the agenda, the commitment to invest in digital DNA, even if it
has no connection or history with the news industry. Bring them in and orient them to
the noble aspirations of news media, and let them loose to help you build a new
business. Too many in the industry believe they can simply adapt old models, and
believe they are smart enough to do so. We have some pretty smart folks here at DDM,
but not one of us is smart enough to adapt an old news model to the new platform of
digital. Instead, we chose to adopt an entirely new model and infuse it with the tradi-
tional standards of journalism.
Q What’s the best recipe for growing digital revenue in 2015?
A First, hire some distinctly Digital DNA on the content and sales side.
Second, attract new audience and engage existing via web-only and contributor
content plus some aligned syndicated content.
Third, sprinkle in some native advertising revenue to begin monetizing mobile engage-
ments. Fourth, launch an eCommerce initiative in local events or travel bookings.
Q We all know that mobile ad spend is at the tipping point of overcoming non-
mobile digital dollars and is a disruption to the revenue stream. Getting the
attention of millennials is yet another challenge. What are the basics that every single
media company should be doing to overcome these disruptions and capture maxi-
mum mobile audience and advertisers?
A Mobile time spent is growing much faster than any other media type, but
revenues and spend on mobile ad formats do not keep pace. Furthermore, social
media is an engagement medium that many traditional businesses are uncomfortable
with. But it is where mobile and millennial interaction takes place. Thus, we need to
innovate how we engage audience where they want to be, and learn how to make it
worth their while to come to our sites to read engaging native advertising, and then trust
us with transactions. Audience first, always.
Q You’re spearheading the DDM/LMA Digital Transformation Boot Camp , an
intensive hands-on digital media training program. What are the goals of this
training and what can media companies expect in terms of practical results from this
A Well, this kid has come on the heels of dozens and dozens of strategy days we
have conducted with executives here in our offices over the last four years. It is
also informed by our work with our publisher partners. We’ve observed in both groups
lofty aims, yet deep frustration in being unable to actually operate and execute on those
goals. We designed Boot Camp to be an in-depth operational look into our organization.
We hope our participants will glean a handful of immediate, tactical steps they can take
action on, and see some immediate improvement. We want them to leave with a
combination of confidence in the fundamentals we teach and hope they can make it
We also offer ongoing participation in our benchmark survey, to help participants
see their own progress or provide better understanding around their ongoing, agonizing
frustration. Participants also get a real view into our own struggles and mistakes, which
we share with candor and openness. They’ll see that we foster an environment of itera-
tion, which is euphemistic for we expect failure from time to time, followed by rapid,
Q Finally, turn back the clock a few years and the tides of social media and mobile
have yet to fully come in. What do you think is the next digital wave to hit and/or
what are you preparing for next?
A Really good question. I believe mobile and social networks will continue to have
impact on our role as media companies I suspect that investments in user
experience and in e-commerce will be imperative for us. What I mean by that is, from
Web, to mobile, to story design, to graphics, to transactions, we will need to consider
user experience and design in everything we do. I'm not so sure that any of us are that
good at this yet. It turns out that the rising generation doesn't necessarily expect great
design, it’s that they don't know anything else! They don't know anything besides
improving, and remarkable user experiences.
Matt with BootCamp audience
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