GateHouse Media’s Robert Saurer On What He Thinks Newspapers Can Do to Leverage Their Local Marketplaces

June 6, 2018

AAM's new board director discusses how publishers can diversify their revenue streams and the importance of cross-platform data.

Erin Boudreau, Marketing Manager

 

Robert Saurer, GateHouse Media’s vice president of consumer marketing, is a 30-year newspaper industry veteran who oversees consumer-driven revenue, customer care and marketing operations for GateHouse’s 142 daily and 326 weekly newspapers. We recently spoke with Rob to get his take on how publishers can diversify their revenue streams, the importance of cross-platform data and what he hopes to accomplish as a new member of AAM’s board of directors.  

 

Robert Saurer, GatehouseAAM: Why did you join AAM’s board?

Robert Saurer: I've been in the business for 25 years and I'm intimately familiar with AAM. It’s a wonderful spot to advance my knowledge of the business. It's also a great network. Being able to sit at the same table with other industry leaders and be part of that network is a tremendous plus.

 

AAM: What would you like AAM clients to know about the board?

Robert Saurer: The industry has had this sense that AAM is all about print. That’s changing. We need to let the industry know that AAM is not just about a print number, it's also about AAM’s Brand View, audience validation and digital services.

 

AAM: How important is it to tell a cross-platform story?

Robert Saurer: Hugely important. One of the plusses of the AAM audit is that it provides us with a similar yardstick with which to analyze data. If I look at an audit report or at Brand View, it looks the same from title to title, so consistency is key. That’s one of the big benefits of AAM Brand View. When our marketing team saw it, they immediately liked it and wanted to implement it to have a consistent look and feel across all GateHouse newspapers.

 

AAM: Why have an AAM audit?

Robert Saurer: One reason is that it gives me a benchmark for market analysis. I can say, “Here’s a market with a half million people and their circulation is ‘X’ and their digital is ‘Y.’ How does that rank against another half million per person market and what is their circulation?” It's a great way to measure success from a consumer perspective. From an advertising perspective, we need the validation. We need to prove to our advertisers what we're delivering in terms of audience. It’s something advertisers want and should have, especially with what's going on today with fake ads and fake news. It makes AAM's position even stronger.

 

We need to let the industry know that AAM is not just about a print number, it's also about AAM’s Brand View, audience validation, quality audiences and digital services.

Robert Saurer, GateHouse Media

 

AAM: What does GateHouse do to increase revenue?

Robert Saurer: In addition to driving consumer revenue and digital subscriptions, we have a couple of positive recent developments called ThriveHive and GateHouse Live. ThriveHive is our digital marketing arm that offers a variety of solutions to advertisers and small businesses in a local market, such as ad opportunities and IT services. Our thought is that since we are local media, we have an interesting ad space that’s not as competitive as it is on the national level, so we can leverage that space to offer solutions to local businesses that go beyond simply buying ads in newspapers. Another opportunity we’ve created is Gatehouse Live, which is our event team. We can run a car festival in town for a small business and drive people to that event. Both ThriveHive and GateHouse Live are good examples of how we're diversifying our revenue streams.

 

AAM: Where do you see the industry in 20 years?

Robert Saurer: There will still be some form of ad revenue. I think it will be a combination of some print—it may be more of a weekly review magazine format—and digital. We’ll be much better at multiplatform. There will be a sense that people will have to pay for journalism. I think the physical part of us—the big buildings that are costly to have and to maintain—is going to go away, which means more home reporting, while perhaps keeping one center as an editorial spot that the community can stay connected to on a physical level.

 

AAM: What excites you about news media?

Robert Saurer: I took my first job in newspapers out of school because it was a job. And then about 10 years later, I realized how important newspaper companies are to their local markets. In today’s news world, I'm proud of the fact that newspapers have maintained their journalistic integrity and their mission. It’s a challenging business, but the thing that always brings me back to the table is that we do something that no one else does. Granted, we're trying to find new ways to monetize it, but the need for local news is important, people demand it and we're doing it.

 

AAM: How do you define success for GateHouse?

Robert Saurer: Of course, we look at revenue and traffic. But beyond that, I always ask: are we retooling ourselves and becoming a modern media company? I look at everything from platforms to the ways we distribute content to battling the brand concept. Are we organizationally refitting ourselves and rethinking how we deploy our human capital to solve problems? Are we getting it beyond just the basic "we have to drive more traffic and we have to drive more revenue?" Being able to answer those questions is a big part of what success means to me.

Getting to Know Rob:

Earlier riser or night owl?

Way early riser.

Favorite book/movie/tv show?

Book: The Power of One/Out of Africa. I don't watch TV.

I would be lost without my…

SAILBOAT

My favorite travel destination is…

Tortola to sail

A must have/must do part of my morning routine is…

Morning java on my roof deck

If I could have one superpower it would be…

Animal communication, specifically whales

 

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