- Kirsten Ballard
What drew you to news media?
It was 35 years ago and I was in search of a career when the phone rang. The concept of working at a newspaper was exciting. It was about being a part of something larger than any one industry. I saw the job as having the potential to be a vocation as well as an occupation. It was intriguing. At the time I was looking at a career path where I could apply my marketing skills and education in an industry that was in short supply of business acumen. Newspapers were looking for trainable young people in search of a career and I signed up.
What is your day-to-day like at the Alliance?
A good part of my day is communicating with members on a range of topics, but mostly focused in the world of audience growth and circulation. This is budgeting season for many of our member companies, so managers are looking for benchmarking data, sales trends, expense-saving ideas or what might happen if they raise the price of the paper one more time! Others are looking for information on selling more newspapers at retail locations or the impact of pending rule changes at the federal level. When I’m not communicating directly with members, I am recruiting presenters for webinars, drafting research reports, recapping member meetings on audience metrics issues or preparing my next presentation of the latest Alliance audience and readership data for an upcoming conference.
What is the most exciting thing you are working on?
Capturing success stories about news companies developing digital products that truly engage both their print readers and new audiences. Newspapers had the franchise in the community. This didn’t just happen; someone my grandparents’ age struggled to make it a reality. To be successful they had to be good at drawing in readers, in fact they had to be the best to sell more newspapers than their competitor. It wasn’t just the quality of their journalism; it was a knack for understanding what was important to their community. Back then, it was usually a geographic community. The industry has to have that same compulsion to attract attention but it has the opportunity to define multiple communities of interest across multiple platforms, print and digital. It’s now a multi-dimensional task and the success stories are compelling.
Where do you see the future of the news industry?
It will remain focused on the human need for news and information and the need to be entertained. The ability to deliver these at a high level of quality is still the unique advantage of our current members. Our news companies need to preserve their credibility both in telling a story and in the business community. It remains our competitive advantage. The revenue stream will continue to become more diverse. It will include digital advertising, print distribution businesses, more holistic services for traditional local advertisers and revenue for news content delivered across platforms.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
Although much of my time is happily absorbed working with Alliance members and my newest role as a grandfather, sailing is my current passion. I acquired a new boat this year. Shooting Starr is large enough to serve as a weekend getaway and explore the Chesapeake Bay. My next goal is to raise my level of expertise and to embark on the “Bahamas-Havana Loop”.