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Your background springs not from newspapers; rather you are a seriously
credentialed business person with an MBA from Columbia and international
experience with J.P. Morgan. Although your previous work included some
new media work with Paramount Pictures, I’m guessing your mostly outsider
perspective was at least part of the decision to bring you into the company. But
I’d like to hear about the converse aspect: why did you choose to join a local
media company firmly entrenched in print media?
I wanted to work somewhere that had a sense of urgency about what was
going on in digital. Newspapers get it, because they were the first media to be
disrupted and it happened fast for them. The management team understood that
it was important to try new business models, invest in building new businesses,
experiment, and work with partners they would have never worked with in the
past. All very exciting stuff.
You’ve been with Calkins a little over a year and half and the lightening
fast pace of change within local media companies is part of your normal,
everyday reality. You’ve not brought any legacy attitudes with you so, with the
fresh perspective, tell us about the tools and mindset you use to assess partner-
ships and projects to develop?
This isn’t new to the industry, but the most valuable tool for me in making
decisions and structuring partnerships or projects is a financial model. For
every project I work on, we build a very detailed financial model from the ground
up. We go through each line of the P&L projection and confirm with our partner
and operators that this assumption is reasonable and there are sufficient resources
for the project to succeed.
Questioning the status quo is probably a key ingredient to your work. How
do you incubate new ideas and initiatives, and how do you firm up and
engender support around new directions?
A key part is education. You can’t say to an operator, “This is what [program-
matic advertising/social media/native advertising/etc] is and we’re going
to do it tomorrow.” At least if you want to be successful, I don’t think you can do
that. What has helped us is a deliberate education process within our company
on key themes in the industry.
I chair a Business Development meeting every two weeks with key
executives from all of our operating companies. I’ll pick a handful of topics
(ranging the gamut from digital innovation in obituaries to Facebook
algorithm updates to the latest in ad tech). I’ll give some brief background
and then we’ll have an open conversation about it. With that knowledge, we
eventually agree as a team what the right direction is. Often we decide not to
act (primarily because we have to manage competing priorities), and that’s
OK. The process of collectively making that decision is just as important.
Having everyone involved in the education process really helps in
launching new initiatives. If the team has already collectively decided a
general strategic direction, selecting a specific partner or initiative is just the
When you joined the Local Media Foundation board last month, you said
something that really resonated with me. Specifically, that a newspaper’s
assets of local audiences, relationships with advertisers, and most importantly,
a well-known brand with a strong reputation in the community don’t diminish
in value as the world goes digital. Truer words could never be spoken! But, now,
the million dollar question. How are you translating that sentiment into new
There are a couple of new initiatives that we’re really excited about. We are
going head first into digital agency - this leverages our existing sales force
relationships. Also, we have a new partnership with a digital media start-up in NY
that will enable us to monetize our audience in different ways beyond page view
impressions or subscription fees. We plan to launch in March and I’ll be able to
share more details then. These two initiatives alone have attractive returns on
investment, which would not be possible if we weren’t leveraging existing assets.
Additionally we are using our existing brands to launch new tablet and mobile apps,
which creates new advertising inventory and sponsorship opportunities for us.
I’d like to explore your work in the new media
landscape but first, how was India? Learn anything
there that relates to your work at Calkins?
I’ve spent a lot of time in India previously and it
was great to be back. It is a country of tremendous
possibility, but there are real impediments (corruption,
imperfect voting system, education, etc) that are prevent-
ing it from realizing that potential. The local newspaper I
read in Bangalore was on the lighter side – I saw limited
coverage of heavier topics like these. It reminded me
that, through watchdog journalism and editorial pieces,
local newspapers play an important role in helping a
community - or country – grow and thrive.
Can you give us a thumbnail of Calkins Media and
the nature of the markets in which you operate?
Calkins Media is a family owned media company
with five daily newspapers and three television sta-
tions. Our newspaper markets, located in Pennsylvania
and New Jersey, are suburban in nature and are defined by
strong tight-knit communities. We also own the ABC broad-
cast affiliates in Sarasota, FL; Tampa, FL, and Huntsville,
AL. Over the past two years we have made it a key focus
to extend these brands onto digital platforms.
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AN OFFICIAL PUbLICATION OF
Q&A with Myra Cortado
Myra is Director of Corporate Development and
Strategic Partnerships for Calkins Media and joined
the company in June 2012. She holds a bSFS,
International Affairs, cum laude, from Georgetown
University in Washington, DC and an MbA from
Columbia business School. Prior to working at
Calkins, Myra worked at J.P.Morgan in their New
York, London and Hong Kong offices.
On a personal note, she’s a tireless adventurer and
among other pursuits, has trekked the Annapurna
Circuit in the Himalayas, Mt. Kilimanjaro in
Tanzania, Druk Path in bhutan, and snow camped
in Mt. Lassen in Northern California. We caught up
with her for this interview upon her return from
two weeks in India.
Continued on PAGe 18
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