As professor of entrepreneurial management at Harvard Business School, Clark Gilbert used case studies in the classroom. Today it could be argued that what he has accomplished with Salt Lake City’s Deseret News IS a case study for the future of journalism.
Gilbert is the president and CEO of the Deseret News Publishing Company and Deseret Digital Media. Deseret Digital Media runs the website operations of DeseretNews.com, KSL.com, DeseretBook.com, Mormon Times and LDSChurchNews.com. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon Church, owns the Deseret News.
For the last four years Gilbert has infused new life into the 162-year-old News, Utah’s oldest continually published newspaper, and local radio and television station KSL.
When he took over the operations, the Deseret News had been hit hard by the economy; it was struggling to survive a 70 percent drop in classified revenues.
Gilbert revamped the entire organization. He cut the staff almost in half, and moved the newspaper into the same building as the corporate headquarters. And he introduced a variety of digital innovations, including development of a platform to bring citizens into the content creation process.
The changes did not come easily. There was a culture clash, and suspicion. Gilbert managed the changes using the concept of disruption pioneered by his former HBS colleague Clay Christensen.
“I think there was some distress about what’s this guy doing?” “This is just an academic theory,” Gilbert told the Project for Excellence in Journalism. He added, “But these people also understood that this industry is changing…they realized they were in trouble.”
Gilbert rebranded the News,identifying 6 key editorial areas connected to values and family. He says, “We want to own faith and the family the way The Washington Post owns politics.”
The new approach is concretized in company’s slogan, “When your family needs to know more.”
Gilbert’s rebranding has helped the Deseret News reach bottom line success. Under his leadership, Deseret Digital Media has boosted its revenue by 44 percent—now a quarter of the company’s total revenue. What’s more, circulation for the newspaper is up 33 percent, and on Sunday about 90 percent. This bottom line success has attracted curiosity and kudos.
But, Gilbert is already pushing beyond this highpoint. He plans expansion that will make the Deseret news a powerhouse in the media world.
Gilbert says, “We are now expanding the reach of Deseret News through syndication partners throughout the country including Gatehouse newspapers, Worldnow TV sites and many others.”
For Clark Gilbert the future is now. Come hear how he is making it happen.