General Session 2: New Media Innovators with Bold Initiatives

Following the first morning coffee break, the second General Session event took place consisting of six speakers, each presenting a seven-minute teaser of their innovative solutions to problems facing the Canadian newspaper industry.

The first speaker, Alliance for Audited Media CEO Tom Drouillard, presented the concept of AAM information as a conduit for commerce. Drouillard said that selling more of the media assurance the company provides will help other companies communicate their full brand story.

He also touched on what to expect in the future from AAM, which includes a site certifier; digital trust and transparency to help fight fraud, and a dynamic online interface that allows Alliance members to tell their custom story visually to thousands of media buyers.

The second presentation, delivered by Newspaper Audience Databank & PMB’s Sara Hill and Donald Williams, displayed the importance of the research aspect of Canada’s newspaper industry. In October 2014, the two largest print readership researchers in Canada, NADbank and PMB, joined forces to form a single database.

Uniting the two companies will ensure a bright future for Canadian newspaper research by granting users access to both large-scale and small-scale readership data; providing media usage data; attaining data under a “readership umbrella” which covers psychographics, demographics, media habits, retailers and products–all of which would be accessible via software provided for 53 markets, many of which are in located in Ontario.

The third speaker, Thane Burnett of TC Media Atlantic Canada and Saskatchewan, presented a very human, Plain Folks approach to journalism that shifts the focus of journalism from the big events to personal stories. “Storytelling is not necessarily breaking news and sirens wailing,” said Burnett.

He laid out a simple mission: 350 words; exact time and day and strong photographs, the purpose of which was to increase the authenticity of these stories, and to relay the story behind the photographs. Burnett emphasized the idea of “capturing change” and “balancing sharing and local relevance.”

Fourth speaker Andrew Franklin of Black Press focused on the concept of crowdfunding through print as a means of connecting communities. Crowdfunding is the practice of funding ventures by raising money from a typically large number of people. Incorporating this blossoming trend into the newspaper industry will attract a larger variety of people, and will be an impactful way to connect communities.

Next up was Jane Allison, Manager of Community Partnerships for The Hamilton Spectator. The initiative: Media Relations Summer Camp. For the past seven years, Mohawk College and The Hamilton Spectator have been running their free media relations summer camp for Not-for-profits in Hamilton, Ontario. Over two days, public relations professionals volunteer their time and talent and help non-profits polish, practise and then pitch story ideas to a panel of Spectator editors and reporters. The camp helps to strengthen connections between not-for-profits and community groups as well as helps to better manage expectations around media coverage and generates higher quality story pitches. Campers also get a newsroom tour along with primers and workshops on social media, on-camera interviews, writing letters to the editor and op-eds, and requesting editorial board meetings.

Last, Howard Law, Director of Media Sector at unifor, and Randy Kitt, President of Unifor 79m, took the stage to present a new industry campaign promoting good journalism. Kitt took delegates through a comprehensive look at Unifor’s initiative to defend the Canadian journalism industry which includes the four-month non-partisan publicity campaign to spread awareness of the industry. Unifor is Canada’s largest private sector union (305,000 plus members), whose mission is to defend the economic rights of every major industry in Canada.

All of the bold and promising initiatives presented at the second General Session established a feeling of ease and general pep to an audience that had recently endured the harsh facts about Canada’s struggling journalism industry. These teasers communicated that although we are living in an age of speedy technological advancement, the newspaper industry can become as relevant as it once was, by joining the forces of technology and journalism.