GateHouse SVP of Digital, Jeff Moriarty, shares his wisdom on the future of the news media and what it will take to succeed.

This February, we had the honor of having Jeff Moriarty, Senior Vice President of Digital at GateHouse Media, speak to our sales and marketing teams at our annual Sales Kick Off. Much of what he told us concerned Newscycle specifically. However, he impressed us with his wisdom about the industry and the future of news media, as well as his experiences with news media companies here and in Europe. We asked Jeff a few follow-up questions.

In an era of so much digital content and options, how do you stand out with your local brands?

Jeff Moriarty, GateHouse

During my four years working in the UK newspaper industry, I really came to appreciate how important it was to know your audiences and constantly adjust your day-to-day product. For such a relatively small country, compared to the U.S., you have this incredible number of publications, each of whom has to speak to their audiences uniquely and authentically. With the majority of newspapers sold on a single-copy basis there, every day was a test of the fit with your audience. I think there is a lot to learn from that and to take away to the US, where you have to constantly be refining how you speak to your audience’s needs, following the data closely. Increasingly, we are seeing that you have to really obsess about what drives digital subscriptions and increases the time spent on our sites.

How do you define and develop new products in this digital landscape?

With so many options as a reader, it’s partly about filling the whitespace or that unmet need in a digital context. I experienced that in the UK with the i newspaper, which focused in on concise and quality news and lifestyle content that could be read in a short amount of time. At GateHouse, we continue to look for those unmet needs of interest to our most loyal readers that we can fill with verticals that can scale across our 450-plus sites.

What do you think are the most important characteristics of your digital systems moving forward?

Increasingly, we need to simplify our platforms, which we need to be flexible, open and fit well together. We still need to piece together many different software solutions that inform but don’t always tightly couple with our other systems or our business priorities. As an example, we have multiple analytics platforms that help us identify trends of content consumption, but they tend to sit in silos, and that data is hard to action in real-time. We need our systems and vendors to better link up what they do best.

What are some new technologies that are of interest to you?

I’ve really been intrigued by some of the natural-language generation systems from companies like Urbs Media in the UK. They have created a unique system that can generate very readable stories out of data, which can be published or used as a foundation for a story by a journalist. Like others, we are also closely following and investing in audio creation, as we see Smart Speakers really take off. With an adoption rate occurring faster than the iPhone, we are experimenting with ways to deliver local news and information to these new voice-controlled devices.

Our thanks again to Jeff Moriarty for taking time from his busy schedule to speak with us.