As page and copy volumes continue to decline, the industry's operating margins face enormous pressure from manufacturing, as well as distribution, as those functions have such small variable cost components. Looking forward and projecting our manufacturing and distribution costs relative to realistic volume declines is frightening.”
Evan Ray, Gannett Publishing Services
Mega-Conference, Feb. 24-26

Enablement from the Back End

From left: Robert Brown, Evan Ray, Ron Sams and Rick Surkamer
Posted 1/24/14

Many believe that the newspaper industry is – and must be – headed for "Zero Capital Budgets" and three significant trends happening simultaneously are behind this initiative:

  • The consolidation of production into print centers.
  • The sourcing of software to the cloud for content, advertising, circulation and finance.
  • The sale of company facilities and moving to a "hoteling" or a mobile operations model.

Combined, all three lead to a true Local Media House, and away from hardware, equipment and buildings that consume limited resources. When the capital budget is $0, the capital can be redeployed for revenue experiments and business development.

These issues will be addressed at the Key Executives Mega-Conference during a Tuesday afternoon break-out session on Feb. 25 by:

  • Robert Brown, president and COO, Swift Communications
  • Evan A. Ray, president, Gannett Publishing Services, McLean, Va.
  • Ron Sams, vice president of sales, manroland web systems
  • Rick Surkamer, president of Surkamer Advisors LLC

Here's why these speakers want you to attend their break-out session:

Robert Brown says, "I remember in 1987 when we transitioned from the traditional composing room producing galleys of type to 9-inch (screen) MacIntosh SEs to build ads and paginate our products. That was a risky move then, much like moving to cloud solutions today. Yet to evolve and keep our expense structures in line to deliver valuable products profitability, risks need to be taken."

He said Swift Communications has been satisfied with its decision more than three years ago to move all functions – circulation, advertising, classified, CMS and Web platforms to the cloud – but there is still plenty of work to be done to maximize this business decision."

Evan Ray says, "As page and copy volumes continue to decline, the industry's operating margins face enormous pressure from manufacturing, as well as distribution, as those functions have such small variable cost components.  Looking forward and projecting our manufacturing and distribution costs relative to realistic volume declines is frightening.

"Many of the traditional newspaper barriers to change must be revisited, from late deadlines to catch one lone ball score restricting manufacturing and distribution windows, to protecting previous large capital investments that haven't been fully recovered, to considering nearby newspaper publishers competitors and therefore unworthy print partners. These factors, and others, have to be revisited in order to reduce our per unit costs.  The days of owning millions of dollars of iron to print only our own newspapers are past – it's now about how far and how fast we can extend the print runway."

Ron Sams says, "As newspapers have edged toward the limit of cost-cutting measures, reduced content and limited distribution of print copy, the logical trend is to look outside of their operation for a solution to print their product – namely outsource printing."

Rick Surkamer added that all newspaper operations must become "transformers."

About our presenters:

Robert Brown was named president of Swift Communications in November 2008. He continues to serve as chief operating officer having held that position since January 2005. He was the general manager for Colorado Mountain News Media from 1999 to 2004. Brown also has been publisher of the Vail Daily, Summit Daily News, Summit County Journal and Leadville Chronicle.

He has more than 20 years of experience in the newspaper and communications industries. Brown is a member of the Youth Foundation of Eagle County and the Vail Valley Charitable Fund. He also volunteered with Vail Leadership and as a youth coach with the Western Eagle County Recreation.

Brown holds a B.S. degree in business with an emphasis in marketing from Colorado State University.

Evan Ray was named president of Gannett Publishing Services (GPS), when it was formed in September 2011.  GPS is responsible for Gannett's U.S. domestic production and circulation operations for its 82 local newspapers and USA TODAY.

Ray began his 35-year newspaper career with Knight-Ridder Newspapers and has held various positions in finance and management in both field and corporate roles. He serves as a U.S. newspaper director on the Alliance for Audited Media (AAM) Board and chairs its Audit Committee. He also serves on the management committees of the California Newspapers Partnership, and Texas-New Mexico / Pennsylvania Newspapers Partnership and serves on the Board of Directors of Tucson Newspapers, Inc.

Ray is a graduate of Florida State University where he received a bachelor's in accounting and information systems management. 

Ron Sams is a graduate of the University of Iowa with a degree in marketing, and has been involved in the printing industry since 1983.  He joined manroland in 1994 and has held various sales and management positions during the past 18 years.  Currently, Sams is the vice president of sales for manroland web systems NA.  He resides in Eagan, Minn., is married with two college-aged children, and says he is looking forward to no tuition payments after next year.

Rick Surkamer is president of Surkamer Advisers LLC, a firm whose stated mission is to help leaders through transformation. He formed the company after the sale of Sun-Times Media to Wrapports in December of 2011, requests to help friends, and the needed structure that his expanding role with private equity required.

His experience spans roles as president of Sun-Times Media, a holding company for 40 publishing brands, including weeklies, local community dailies and the metro Sun-Times.  While at Sun-Times, the company was an early adopter of the principles of outsourcing printing, distribution, cloud-based platforms across CMS, advertising and circulation, sale of company real estate, and early stage metering across all products.

His experience spans both U.S. newspapers and international publishers. Prior to Sun-Times and the sale of the company to Wrapports in December of 2011, he held multiple positions at Tribune Company, early stage Internet start-ups and C Level assignments in industrial manufacturing and distribution.

He resides in the quiet beach town of Lake Bluff, Ill., on the North Shore of Lake Michigan. He currently serves on the board of the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, Advisory Board to VentureDNA (a Venture Capital firm), and is a past member and board member of Local Media Association.

He says those who work for and with him have used the following words to describe his motto: "There is always a way." He says he also has been called "The Danish Tornado."

This segment of the program is one of 15 break-out sessions that Mega-Conference attendees will have to choose from over the course of the conference.  The program will include a combination of general session programs and concurrent workshops, designed to let attendees choose those sessions that most fit their needs.

Brown, Sams, Surkamer
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