ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Deseret News President and CEO Clark Gilbert didn't pull any punches as he opened the inaugural Multimedia Key Executives Conference that opened here today.
"Unless you are willing to completely transform yourselves, I don't have a lot to say to you today," he told the more than 470 newspaper executives attending the conference.
"A complete transformation is necessary to move forward and to be competitive" with new businesses entering the marketplace, he said, adding that he believed the industry has a three-year window to make the necessary changes.
"The industry is forever broken," he said. "It will bounce again, but three years from now will be the permanent reality."
Gilbert has overseen a dramatic change at the Deseret News, which last spring launched a digital-centric strategy. It also integrated its operations more tightly with sister media outlets KSL Radio and KSL Television in a bid to become the dominant force in Salt Lake City.
Gilbert said emerging competitors, such as Groupon, threaten to do a lot more damage to newspapers, much like Craigslist all but evaporated the industry's classified ad base.
"Groupon is going to destroy the newspaper coupon business," he said.
To defend their turfs successfully, Gilbert said newspapers have to re-examine every aspect of their operation, including pinpointing the costs of doing business.
"You better get your cost structures reinvented," he said, adding that AOL's planned acquisition of The Huffington Post is a strong indicator of how AOL plans to corral the costs of generating digital content.
"Reinvent and differentiate yourself from what others can do," he said.
The Key Executives Conference was co-sponsored by Inland Press Association, the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association and Suburban Newspapers of America.
Look for more details about Gilbert's speech, as well as information about the Multimedia Conference, in the next issue of News & Tech.