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At The Dallas News, a New "Bold Strategy": Section Editors Reporting to Sales Managers

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After the jump, you will find a memo Dallas Morning News editor Bob Mong and senior vice president of sales Cyndy Carr sent to everyone at A.H. Belo Corp. Wednesday afternoon outlining what they call a "business/news integration." Which means? As of yesterday, some section editors at all of the company's papers, including The News, will now report directly to Carr's team of sales managers, now referred to as general managers. In short, those who sell ads for A.H. Belo's products will now dictate content within A.H. Belo's products, which is a radical departure from the way newspapers have been run since, oh, forever.

Those sections mentioned in the memo include sports, entertainment, real estate, automotive and travel, among others.The memo doesn't mention Business or Metro by name, but there are references to "health/education" and "retail/finance"; these are not defined in the missive. Says the memo, Carr's sales force will "be working closely with news leadership in product and content development." Executive sports editor Bob Yates and Lifestyles deputy managing editor Lisa Kresl are quoted in the memo enthusiastically signing off on the unconventional marriage; says Kresl, "I'm excited about the idea of working with a business partner on an arts and entertainment segment."

I've left messages for Mong, who refers to this merger as "a progressive step," and Carr, who is in a meeting, and will update when they respond. Till then, jump away.

Update at 11:33 a.m.: I just had a lengthy talk with Mong, who acknowledges that yesterday's memo raised "uneasiness in some areas" of the newsroom, "and I would have been disappointed if people didn't raise questions." Our Q&A in full will appear in a separate item shortly.

Update at 12:58 p.m.: You will find our interview with Mong here.

Update at 7:26 p.m.: Dallas Morning News publisher Jim Moroney called this evening to further explain the motivations behind yesterday's memo.

From: Mong, Bob
Sent: Wednesday, December 02, 2009 4:41 PM
To: Everyone - Al Día; Everyone - Denton RC; Everyone - TDMN; Everyone - Quick; Everyone-Denton Publishing; AH Belo Interactive; AH Belo Technology Dallas
Subject: Memo from Bob Mong and Cyndy Carr

The Dallas Morning News

December 2, 2009


Today we are launching a new business segment structure as the next step toward becoming the most comprehensive and trusted partner for local businesses in attracting and retaining customers and continuing to generate important, relevant content for our consumers.

To better align with our clients' needs, we will be organized around eleven business and content segments with similar marketing and consumer profiles including: sports, health/education, entertainment, travel/luxury, automotive, real estate, communications, preprints/grocery, recruitment, retail/finance, and SMB/Interactive.

Each segment will be led by a General Manager (GM), a newly-defined role, each reporting to Cyndy Carr, charged with analyzing and growing the business by developing solutions that meet consumer needs and maximize results for our clients. Their responsibilities will include sales and business development. They will also be working closely with news leadership in product and content development.

In the Sports and Entertainment segments, the senior news editors will report directly to the GM while retaining a strong reporting relationship to the editor and managing editor. These collaborations will bring new products that consumers want to the market more rapidly. We are proceeding knowing and trusting each other's distinct roles and responsibilities in the same way our News leadership and our Publisher have worked collaboratively for years.

This business/news integration is a progressive step and is strongly supported by the news leaders of both the Sports and Entertainment segments:

"As a segment, we have a lot of advantages usually associated with a start-up," said Bob Yates, deputy managing editor and Executive Sports Editor. "We should be able to move much more quickly to take advantage of opportunities. That comes from having greater autonomy that gives us the freedom to develop both advertising and content solutions."

"As a journalist who has participated in many new product launches, I'm excited about the idea of working with a business partner on an arts and entertainment segment," added Lisa Kresl, deputy managing editor for Lifestyles. "Our high quality, credible content will reach new audiences in a variety of formats."

The new segment leadership team is comprised of a very talented and accomplished group of business professionals:

Entertainment and Travel/Luxury Segments: Tracy Martin Taylor is the GM for the Entertainment and Travel/Luxury segments. As part of the new GM role, Tracy will be responsible for overseeing content. Tracy will continue her role as Quick Publisher and assume the role of FD Luxe Publisher. Prior to joining The News in July, she was in sales management at Clear Channel Radio and marketing at Wherehouse Music.

Sports and Health/Education Segments: Rich Alfano is the newest member of our management team. Rich worked for Times Mirror Magazines and served as President of Yachting, Saltwater Sportsman and Golf Magazine. He has most recently served as Senior Vice President/General Manager and SVP/Strategic Marketing for Practitioner's Publishing Co./Thomson Reuters. His professional success and experience in several industries makes him ideally suited to lead two of our high-growth segments.

Automotive Segment: Bill Bradley is the Automotive GM. Bill has over ten years of experience in sales management and has been a leader in solution-based selling. His in-depth knowledge of the auto industry combined with his strong local dealer relationships make him ideal for the role. Bill has held sales management positions on the The News classified and local teams as well as sales and training roles in the newspaper industry prior to joining the company.  

Real Estate Segment: Bill Bradley will assume the role of acting GM for Real Estate until the permanent position is hired.

Communications Segment: Alejandro "Alex" Sanchez is the Communications GM and Publisher of Al Día.  He's been the Publisher of Al Dia the past two years and is responsible for achieving profitability earlier this year. Prior to The News, Alex spent 10 years as vice president and general manager for various television and radio stations in Texas, New York and California.

Pre-prints/Grocery Segment: Dan Phelan is the GM for the Pre-Print/Grocery Segment. Since becoming pre-print sales director in 2003, Dan has excelled in delivering creative solutions for our clients and has ranked at the top of our peer group in revenue performance. Prior to The News, Dan spent 18 years with Advo/Valassis in customer service and sales management roles.

Recruitment Segment: Michael Mayer is GM for Recruitment Advertising segment. He is a seasoned sales leader and has held various sales management positions in the newspaper industry including Recruitment Director at The Denver Newspaper Agency.

Retail/Financial Segment: Grant Moise is GM for the Retail/Financial segment. Grant has also been named Publisher of Briefing after leading it to profitability since joining The News in December. Grant was previously the Regional Sales Director for Tribune Media Net and the National Advertising Director at The News.  

SMB/Retail Interactive Segment: As the GM of SMB/Retail Interactive, Robert Jehling will focus our existing local teams on sales opportunities in the small and medium business (SMB) segments. SMB is composed of the General Classifieds organizations, SMB sales teams, and the Self Serve Portal. Robert will also continue to lead the Local and National Retail Interactive teams which have achieved revenue growth under his leadership. In addition, Robert will serve as Publisher for NeighborsGo and NeighborsGo.com. Prior to joining The News last November, Robert was a Senior Sales Director at AT&T. Robert has over 15 years in leading consultative sales and marketing teams, with a proven track record of success in merging sales organizations and driving increased productivity.

The segment restructure is one of several key strategies we have implemented this year to better serve our advertising clients, including the following:  

  • Every member of the sales staff has completed a solutions-based training and evaluation program to increase their ability to better understand our clients' marketing objectives and recommend solutions that deliver results. Training is an ongoing priority. Future training topics will include digital, product and segment training in addition to a learning management system to facilitate continuous education and assist in certification.
  • Implemented a new Integrated Advertising System (IAS) in July, which consolidated over five disparate operating systems enabling us to more efficiently manage our clients' accounts.
  • Restructured the marketing organization to better support the sales staff in the development of media solutions for our clients. Market, audience and segment analysts provide valuable insights while marketing strategists, media planners and the agency help create campaigns that deliver results.
  • Created an agency liaison team to better serve our advertising agency clients through a more singular focus on account management. After the first 90 days, our satisfaction ratings have increased significantly.

As The Dallas Morning News approaches its 125th anniversary in 2010, our business stands at a critical crossroads. Our success depends on employing bold strategies to evolve our organization: our home delivery pricing strategy (on which Jim and John updated us on Monday), our continued dedication and investment in important and relevant journalism that makes a difference in our community and the ongoing development of our product portfolio have all played a role in changing our approach to how we do business.

This restructure and strategic integration with news, along with the many other strategies we've put into place this year to better serve our clients and consumers, position us for significant growth and stability as we head into the new year.

Cyndy Carr                                                                 Bob Mong
SVP/Sales                                                                   Editor

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