Borrell LOAC17: Traditional Media Leaders Lay Out Digital Blue Prints

One doesn’t typically pick the large media conglomerates to lead the way in today’s search-and- find digital environment. But some of them have money, and have quietly assembled digital properties and toolsets that are evolving into a digital mindset.

At Borrell’s Local Online Advertising Conference in New York this week, leaders from CBS, McClatchy, Nexstar and Gatehouse shared new roadmaps for creating more relevant companies – even if some aren’t necessarily expecting to see a lot of direct revenue from digital.

“The days of chasing digital dollars are over,” said former CBS Local President Ezra Kucharz, who remains an advisor to the radio company. Yet, Kucharz feels it remains imperative to get digitally-oriented features like social media, events and services right – if only to support advertiser and audience expectations.

McClatchy digital media head Chris Hendricks said his company’s sense of digital is that it must go where the audience is, extend the company’s media coverage and storytelling, and that the company needs to be prepared to sell the full range of digital products “without the vestiges of print haunting us.” That means working with digital agencies and partners, as well as internal resources.

Media companies have a set of problems they need to address, said Hendricks: These include: A “Go it alone” mentality; an over-reliance on display advertising; no digital subscription strategy; no digital agency strategy; no video strategy; no content distribution strategy; and a mentality that thinks that other local media are the competition, and that digital shouldn’t be integrated with the rest of the company.

Video has become a special focus point for McClatchy, with branded news, episodic programs and a new VideoLab@McClatchy, which “invites the community in,” says Hendricks. The effort partners with YouTube and Facebook, and overall, the company is seeing 20 million video views a month.

Nexstar, primarily a TV station company with products in 100 U.S. markets and 1,500 sales people, sees digital as providing “amplification” via audience building, social outlets and native content. EVP and CRO Tom O’Brian says the company sees significant new opportunities as a digital concierge for local clients, with local digital marketing, programmatic, performance marketing, social, mobile monetization, enterprise publishing, video and display.

Indeed, the company is already seeing $300 million from digital, or 15 percent of its $2 Billion annual revenue. In five years, it hopes to see $500 million. ‘We’re focused on super-serving local audiences and advertisers across all platforms,” said O’Brian.

Nexstar CRO Tom O”Brian

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