- Kirsten Ballard
News Media Alliance announced the winners of its first “Top 30 Under 30” Awards program at mediaXchange 2016 in April, which honors young leaders working in every aspect of the news media who are contributing to the future success of the industry. Over the next several weeks we will feature profiles on the winners, highlighting their work and ideas, and how they’re helping the industry grow and evolve.
To Ashley Bethard, journalism is not just content or an article, it is a package. She teaches her reporters to think on a broader scale, down to the social media posting time. “What are some of the ways to drive that story?” she says. “It’s a holistic conversation; they can see the effects their work has.”
As the Digital Media Manager at Cox Media Group-Ohio, she meets with her team every day and works through story pitching and idea formulation. Her focus is on optimizing content. She is credited as a driving force behind Dayton.com, where she created workflows and processes to generate content and used marketing tactics to target the 25-54 year old demographic.
Ashley was nominated for News Media Alliance’s Top 30 Under 30 Awards for her help in generating $20,000 in incremental annual revenue and growing the social media audience by 70 percent from 2013 to 2014.
She declares her age an advantage, having grown up as a digital native, she has an ingrained understanding of how people use and consume digital content. “That has helped keep the user experience at the top of mind for me,” she says.
With the constant changes in journalism, she admits it is a tough business.
“We’re seeing a huge shift in audience and the way people consume the product,” she says. “I think next year we’ll see a proliferation of more and more live feeds. People as brands will become more and more pronounced.”
At CMG-Ohio, she is able to dabble in all forms of media. It combines multiple media entities; she refers to it as a grand experiment where you have television, radio, print and digital all under the same roof.
“It’s a really exciting mix,” she says. “It’s never the same and that’s partially why I love it.”
She inadvertently got started in media while she was a graduate student, working on her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. She was living with her parents, working three jobs and completing her masters at the same time. Her mother encouraged her to apply for a part time paid internship at FunCoast.com.
A year and four months later, she was offered the editor’s position at age 24.
She has always been a hard worker. It was not enough to be a good writer; she wanted to be proficient in every angle of the business. She says she never looked at her job as the only job.
“(Don’t learn) just the technical aspects, but learn the actual business, the bottom line,” she says. “That is honestly going to be the future, those roles where people can understand both content and revenue.”