Three leaders of the SWFL media market gave their views about what the future holds for Southwest Florida media at the Thursday, May 4, Press Club of Southwest Florida luncheon at Tiburon Golf Club. About 60 members and guests listened as Bill Barker, president and publisher of the Naples Daily News and Gannett regional vice president; Georgia Beasley, director of digital sales-Beasley Media Group SWFL; and Joe Schwartzel, general manager WINK-TV, gave their thoughts on today’s changes and challenges.
“Our industry is healthy, it’s changing,” said Barker. “The past 10 years were very exciting, and in the last seven years I’ve had the joy of being part of five transitions which have gotten us where we are today.” He continued, “The Journal Media Group (NDN) made an acquisition about six months ago. Our mission is to strengthen our community and to help businesses grow, especially small businesses.” He explained, “We continually ask ourselves if our community is better off because we’re there. We don’t sell products. Our job is to listen and try to make this a better place to live, a better environment. We’ve gone to new ways of thinking about our mission—for us, it’s really about engaging.” He closed with, “Media is changing; today we’re in 109 markets.”
Beasley said her passion is multimedia marketing. In her PowerPoint presentation, she highlighted: Decline in Revenues, Measurable Analytics & Data Capturing, Increase of Media Options. “How many people have Netflix and DVR’s?” she asked. “How many people have Pandora and other streaming options?” Beasley asked, “Can a leopard change its spots? Why not? Take it outside the box and throw the box away.” Following up on that statement, she said, “We need to reach, target and engage–this is the formula for success for a media outlet.” She encouraged the listeners to “Start with what the brand wants. Achieve that by engagement through participation and improving the experience; create an emotional connection that drives behavior; develop the ability to achieve multiple objectives, access compelling, relevant content, and move beyond marketing to a business strategy.” She gave an example, using the Garnier company–they appeal to millennials and highlight new product lines. Beasley summed up her primary ideas as: Activation (passion points), Develop (strategy) and Engage (with the audience). She stressed the fact that social media is so important. “Take action, change your world for the better,” she stated.
Schwartzel started his presentation with an observation: “In order to have a change, you have to have a perspective of what came before.” He gave some history of WINK-TV. “In 1944 WINK-TV went on the air. Back then television was either a VHF channel (11 of them), requiring rabbit ears to get the signal, or a UHF channel, requiring a little loop to get the signal. All channels were free of charge. Next came Southern Cable Vision (now Comcast) with a $50 hook-up fee and $55/year for service.” Schwartzel continued, “In 1972 cable-TV companies started producing programming themselves.” He talked about the current situation, “Today, the average viewer watches 9 to 11 stations a month, but only 45 percent of you watch regular TV; the rest of you watch streaming, etc. Now, high-speed internet stations are available anywhere and everywhere: cable, satellite and streaming services. The bad news is you’re going to pay a price for it, and it’s not cheap.” He added, “The SCC is making changes; there is a tremendous amount of networking and consolidation is going on. There’s a lot of change. Next year I’ll let you know what happened.”
Q: “What do you see as the game plan for the next 10 years?”
A: Beasley answered, “To gain 10 percent of the market, at a minimum, and continue to grow.” Barker answered, “To help our readers understand that editorial is separate from the news; editorial is our opinion. And, we’ll continue to focus on important issues, such as shrinking shores, low income and workforce housing, sustainable wages and jobs, civility and discourse, new health care models, medical marijuana, world class schools in our community.”
Q: “What are your circulation trends and online trends?”
A: Barker answered, “It depends on your market. For us, publishing is about the same, but publishing income is coming down. Digital is the new focus–80,000 people/day engage in our digital markets. Our e-edition is growing; some of the seasonal residents are now reading our e-edition year-round.”
Q: “What about the Freedom of the Press and FCC requirements?”
A: Schwartzel answered, “The quantity of what we produce has grown immeasurably–meteorologists, drones, high-speed cameras. We are competing well which helps us stay private.” Beasley answered, “On social media you can say what you want to say.” Barker answered, “We’ve seen people come back in droves to credible, high-quality journalism like the WSJ, NYT. Quality journalism is not free, and accuracy is of critical importance. But, if society becomes complacent, we’ll lose our protections. People should not take it for granted. The biggest problem we have is competition for time–how people choose to spend their time.”
Q: “Is journalism under assault?”
A: Schwartzel answered, “We need to help people understand the difference between real news and news that’s not credible. We spend a lot of time to make certain that our news is well vetted before we broadcast it.” Beasley answered, “As a millennial, I am that person. If I’m not going to pay attention to it, who is the news for?” Barker answered, “As a curator of information, we’ve got to meet people where they are. And, yes, we are under assault in public opinion now, particularly in the political arena where there is a lot of theater. Another issue is that more journalists have died in the past several years, just doing their jobs.”
Q: “What about copyright issues?”
A: Barker said, “We have to fight for access to information today. We’ll spend the money to request records, etc., but millennials don’t mind as much about paying for information.” Beasley asked, “How do we make sure that we can best share our quality content, deliver it, keep the value, keep it free?” Schwartzel answered, “We don’t make a profit off of digital; we make a profit off our newscasts. Digital is not very profitable. What it does is bring us to them and then we will try to sell them products.”
Photos by Ted Epstein