Press Publisher says they are a “highly successful marketing services producer” during Econ Club luncheon
The Economic Club of Grand Rapids held one of their monthly luncheon gatherings in downtown Grand Rapids today. Their guest speaker was the publisher of the Grand Rapids Press, Dan Gaydou.
Gaydou’s talk was entitled, Adapting to the Changing Media Landscape, which some might have interpreted how the only daily newspaper in Grand Rapids has made adjustments in how in reports the news, but the head of the Press made it clear early on that news had little to do with what he wanted to impress upon the audience.
Gaydou began with a powerpoint slide with the headline Dealing with disruption in the marketplace, which right away set the tone for what he wanted to address. He then showed everyone a list of the media entities that the Press is part of, namely the Booth News chain. However, Gaydou failed to mention that Booth News is really part of the media conglomerate Advance Publications.
“The lingering economic crisis,” Gaydou said, “means that when people don’t buy goods, advertisers don’t by ad space, which negatively impacts revenue for the Press.” This business reality makes it clear why the Press also does so called news stories that essentially promote area businesses and a consumerist culture. The most recent evidence was the front page article on the front page of Saturday’s Press where the Press reporter told readers about local retailers who aren’t waiting til Black Friday to offer holiday sales. (Shoppers Feast Early)
Gaydou then said that the Press has been changed because of the digital revolution, which he thinks has been good for consumers. The Press’ Publisher spent time then hyping new technology, which he thinks with radically change our lives. Gaydou held up an iPad he says has revolutionized the way he accesses media. This notion of media technology is something that Gaydou felt the Press needed to “take hold of and make it theirs.”
The Press Publisher then told the audience, “Incremental change is over, we need to make drastic change or become irrelevant.” It seemed to this writer that what this meant is that newspapers have to become more than newspapers. Gaydou held up a copy of West MI Business Review, which he publishes and can be find on MLive.com. According to Gaydou this publication demonstrates their ability to be innovative.
Gaydou also talked about what he called “Adjustment Strategies,” where because of less revenue from traditional advertising they have needed to rethink how they operate. The Press’ Publisher says they have been quite successful and referred to a recent Editor and Publisher Magazine article which stated that of all the media markets in the US the Grand Rapids Press ranks seventh is sustainability and readership because they have made their online presence more than just a digital archive of what appears in print.
Gaydou also claimed that the Press has “Core Competencies.” One of those core competencies is that “the Press acts as an independent & credible source for local content.” Gaydou even referred to the Press as a Community Watchdog, but did not cite any examples of how they fulfill this function.
More importantly for those in attendance, Gaydou stressed the economic role his newspaper plays by saying, “We are a highly successful marketing services producer. Our marketing strength has never been better. Your business is a success because of the partnerships you have with us. We offer targeted direct marketing opportunities, search engine marketing, display ads, shopping data bases, text and video to help your businesses grow.” This was certainly the core of his talk and it went over well with the audience who was made up of the management class.
However, Gaydou did believe journalism should rise above that so as to look out for the interest of the community. “We care about the poor, the down and out, the person who is powerless to ask important questions.” Again, the Press’ Publisher offered up no evidence that they care about the poor and the powerless.
Gaydou concluded his talk by re-affirming the business and marketing aspect of what they do. “We are aiming at tomorrow, while mining today’s revenue. We are mastering the underlying analytics, strategizing around transition economics and doing more than repurposing, we are adding more content.” If you asked people what this had to do with journalism, what do you suppose they might say?
The Econ Club moderator only allowed time for one question from the audience. Someone asked Gaydou what the future was for investigative reporting? Gaydou said it is a core of what they do and cited the Hangar 42 Studios scandals that the Press reported on. Unlike other Econ Club events I have attended, no other media was present to do a story on Gaydou’s talk, which should tell us something about the supposed competition that exists between news entities in West Michigan.