So Jason Taylor, what is it you do?
I’m the president of New Media Investment Group Ventures. My sole focus is on the future revenue streams of the company, (the parent of GateHouse Media) and looking for new businesses and opportunities to drive it into 2019 and beyond.
You’ve worked in newspapers with several different ownership models: Family-owned, publicly traded and now a sort of combination of public company and investment funds. What kind of conclusions have you come to about the differences in culture among these models?
Whether it’s a large public corporation or a family-owned company, the culture really comes from the individual newspapers. There are great lessons to be learned from all of the (types of ownerships), with a lot of unique approaches and priorities with elements that can be incorporated in both of them.
What advantages as a publisher did you find in the national scale of a GateHouse Media or a Gannett Co.?
I learned to appreciate the difference in markets. You know, just because a cherry tree grows in Michigan, it doesn’t mean it’s going to grow in Florida. You can have the best idea in the world, but it won’t not necessarily translate to all markets. We try (at GateHouse) to be market-centric rather than corporate-centric.
What does GateHouse Media look for when considering acquiring a newspaper or cluster?
I think we look for companies that have the ability to scale quickly, who can leverage the existing national assets of GateHouse to make themselves stronger or faster—without taxing the local market. We don’t want to buy companies that, in rolling out services, are going to distract the local market.
And GateHouse avoids trying to buy the biggest newspapers in the U.S.
Yes. Historically we’ve always thought the top 20 DMAs in the country are “noisy” in the media space, and are hard to get market penetration. Once get past (those markets), the core media assets of GateHouse are still essential to the community and providing information you have a lot to leverage.
Could you describe the evolution of GateHouse’s events initiatives?
We started the events division just three years ago. Now we have established events such as the events about state politics in markets where we have newspapers, which are trademarked under the Headliner name. We have a number of races, which allows us to compile a database of affluent, active people. We do event trips, taking readers to Europe and to Branson (Missouri) for the Christmas lights. We hold talent shows, and this year, to mark the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, we’re rolling out events in 36 markets. We’re projecting $1 million just in ticket sales.
I know we’re big, but these events can all be rooted in any community.
How does the future of newspapers look from your perspective?
All of the external circumstances make the climate difficult, but we remain so important, community journalism remains so important, to the vitality of local markets that we just have to find modern ways to be that marketplace for connecting consumers and businesses. We still do journalism, but we don’t always ways engage consumers and businesses. We have to find ways to engage that will keep advertisers loyal to us and keep us loyal to them.
Finally, could you talk about Inland, where you recently joined the association board of directors?
Inland has always seen as a tremendous resource for level-setting training opportunities in which even the smallest paper has the opportunity to network with the largest companies. And to have (that training) when they don’t have the resources to bring in trainers on their own. And of course the networking is invaluable.