The annual meeting is always a good time to look at what your association has accomplished over the last 12 months – and what to expect in the upcoming year.
Let’s start with the most basic barometer of an association’s life – the number of members it has. I’m pleased to report that over the last year Inland’s membership has grown to its highest level in more than a decade. As you can see in the accompanying chart, we now have more than 1,400 members.
That membership growth is the result of a multi-year initiative spearheaded by Inland’s Membership Committee. The committee, under the leadership of Doug Phares and now Cory Bollinger, developed a targeted list of newspapers and newspaper companies to be approached. Then the committee designated a committee member to reach out to those potential members to tell the Inland story. We believe the testimonials from current members are the most effective recruitment message in our toolkit. And, our efforts have been successful in almost every case.
In this age of change, that growth is gratifying and a testament to the enduring spirit of this organization and its members. Technology and business models have changed, and will continue to change. But the ideal that took root here in Chicago more than a hundred years ago — like-minded newspaper people sharing their passion for our industry — remains.
I also want to return to a point I’ve made before. That is the overall direction of our programming and best-practice sharing. Over the last several years, we’ve been asking a key question in our annual membership survey. The response to that question has been remarkably consistent. Paraphrasing, the question is: Should the focus of our programming be primarily digital, primarily print, or a good blend of both? Overwhelmingly, members tell us they want a good blend of digital and legacy print. So, it’s no coincidence that the theme of this year’s annual meeting is “Real Newspapers, Real Revenue, Real Success.” The program is a mix of bleeding edge digital and back-to-basics newspaper blocking and tackling. We will continue to offer a mix of programming that meets the varied needs of our membership.
As winds of change swirl around us, smart collaboration within our industry is vital. Your board of directors has embraced that spirit of collaboration. When we can join with other organizations to the benefit of our members, we will. In just the last year, the Key Executives Mega-Conference – our most prominent collaborative venture – recorded its most successful conference ever. We have been co-sponsoring the conference with the Local Media Association and the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association since 2011. This year, the News Media Alliance joined as a co-sponsor. You’ll also remember that we held a joint annual meeting with SNPA last year in Colorado Springs – the first time in Inland’s 133-year history that we’ve had our annual meeting anywhere but Chicago. And, we have co-sponsored other conferences in the last year with SNPA and various state press associations. Expect this collaboration to continue through 2018 and 2019.
With the board’s leadership, Inland also has taken a more vocal role in supporting the vital importance and wellbeing of the newspaper industry. We were an early co-sponsor of NMA’s Support Real News campaign. We joined others in publicizing the dangerous impact of the newsprint tariffs and of the STOPP Campaign. We will continue to lend our voice on issues critical to the industry and our members.
We also are exploring different programming models. One of our most successful additions was our Executive Voices Conference held last December in Chicago. This was a discussion, rather than a one way, speaker-driven conference. We invited senior executives to this one-day event. We focused on a handful of key issues facing the industry and used moderators to facilitate the ensuing discussions. The reaction to the conference was uniformly positive and we will repeat the conference again this December. We also are experimenting with a year-long virtual conference on human resource issues. The conference consists of four, half-day webinars on key issues facing HR managers. We will continue to look for new and cost-effective ways to bring quality programs to our members.
Your association benefits from a strong, and involved, board and an active executive committee. The board was led this year by Tom Yunt, who provided energetic and spirited leadership. It has been my pleasure to work with Tom and with the entire board. You should also know that inland has a small, but efficient staff, all of whom have a passionate commitment to the association and the industry.
Finally, I would like to thank you for your continuing support of Inland and its mission to grow and support its members and the industry.