innovation award

The winner of the 2020 Mega-Innovation Award was the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for its iPad Strategy. Pictured with the award is Eliza Baines, VP of audience development at WEHCO Media Inc. (left), and publisher Walter E. Hussman Jr. (Photo by Nu Yang/Editor & Publisher magazine.)

With the shared goal of taking newspapers and websites into the next phase of a changing industry, more than 500 members of the publishing industry gathered Feb. 17-19 for the Key Executives Mega-Conference at the Omni Fort Worth Hotel in Fort Worth, Texas.

A joint effort of newspaper media associations, including America’s Newspapers (formed from the merger of Inland Press Association and Southern Newspaper Publishers Association), Local Media Association and News Media Alliance, the Mega-Conference annually brings together allied members of the industry to share their enthusiasm and passion for local journalism.

I had the pleasure of representing Family Features at the conference to introduce representatives for a multitude of publications to our digital and print editorial content. Publishers and editors were excited to learn more about Family Features’ capabilities to enhance websites and create reader engagement through content widgets and recipe videos.

The Mega-Conference is three days of fast-paced sharing and learning, including an active trade show. The sessions were hard-hitting with experts in the field and successful industry publishers and trainers covering topics ranging from revenue strategies and digital subscriptions to branded content. Roundtable discussions were popular, with publishers leading discussions on topics like data privacy, reader engagement, artificial intelligence, fake news and how publications are leading the way in their local communities.

As part of the conference, the Mega-Innovation Awards were presented to three publications. The “Arkansas Democrat-Gazette” won first place for its bold move to convert readers from print to digital-replica delivery. Publisher Walter E. Hussman Jr. shared how iPads and an operation and support system were provided free-of-charge to all readers who converted from print to digital subscriptions. He reported 79% of home deliveries have already been converted, and the publication hopes to complete the transition in its 12-county coverage area by late summer 2020, at which time daily print newspapers will be suspended with the exception of Sundays.

The runner-up for the Innovation Award was the “Salt Lake Tribune” for converting the newspaper into a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and raising $20 million from its community to ensure the paper’s future. Also recognized was the “Sumter (South Carolina) ITEM,” which provides a daily TV show to further its news coverage and community commitment. The paper’s slogan: “You live in Sumter. Your news should, too.”

Ryan Dohrn, a seasoned sales trainer, gave an inspiring talk titled, “20 on ’20: Revenue Ideas That Are Working Right Now.” Dohrn, who has a track record of bringing in more than $500 million in media sales, shared his 20 revenue ideas along with details and steps to implement them.

It was refreshing to see how many young, exciting people are leading the charge at this critical time for this industry with enthusiasm and passion to succeed.


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Cindy Long

Cindy Long is Family Features’ Media Relations Manager. She works with a network of more than 10,000 editors to help fill the food, lifestyle and home and garden sections of their newspapers, magazines and websites.