This interview is part of the Alliance for Audited Media’s Media Mavens article series that features industry leaders and the impact they have made throughout their careers on their colleagues, companies and the industry.
After starting out as a sports reporter covering events that ranged from high school to the pros, Helen Trask made her way to the business side of newspaper publishing working in consumer sales and marketing. She’s currently the senior vice president of consumer subscriptions, revenue and growth at Gannett where she uses her knack for analytics and creativity to drive subscription sales and revenue.
Helen shares insights from her career, including how her team uses data to create valued content, what has surprised her most in her career and where she sees the future of news media.
AAM: Why did you choose your career?
Helen Trask: I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to work in a field that supports journalism. Shedding light on communities, the emotions of good storytelling that impact lives and to think that we’re invited into people’s minds every day — this is all such an honor. Too many people take what journalists do for granted, not realizing the personal impact it has on lives until it’s missing from their own.
AAM: Anything about the industry that’s surprised you?
Helen Trask: The tenure of employees in our industry is significant. It always impresses me when people mention the number of years they have worked in publishing.
AAM: Share an initiative that is helping your company innovate.
Helen Trask: There are so many programs that it's hard to pinpoint just one, but I can highlight a recent effort to relaunch our USA TODAY Best-selling Booklist. This was a truly collaborative effort from teams including product, engineering, editorial and marketing and partnerships with Bookshop.org and The Novel Neighbor so readers can support local and independent booksellers. Each week, USA TODAY collects sales data from booksellers representing a variety of outlets: bookstore chains, independent bookstores, mass merchandisers and online retailers. Using that data, we determine the week's 150 top-selling titles. We are the best reflection of what the nation is reading because we are the people’s booklist. Our booklist doesn’t editorialize or discriminate by genre; we are driven by the data. This is a prime example of our work to empower the communities we serve and give our readers the content they desire.
AAM: How has AAM supported your company?
Helen Trask: AAM has regularly supported our need to pull data being requested by advertisers that is outside the normal requests. The efficiency and quick responses have satisfied the requests time and time again.
AAM: What in your career are you most proud of?
Helen Trask: I don’t refer to my position as a job or a career. It’s work. To me, the word job aligns with a paycheck, while careers push for promotions. Work keeps you focused on the goals of the business. I believe that this industry has such high tenured employees because people are on a true mission and work hard every day to make sure the mission is successful. That work builds passion. When I look back on my life and ask: If I had a chance at a do-over, would I be doing something different? The answer — without hesitation — is no. I believe I have made a difference. That is what I’m proud of.
AAM: What piece of advice would you give someone starting out in your field?
Helen Trask: Be brave and make a move. Be bold but listen first. Be humble and build a team.
AAM: What word describes your company?
Helen Trask: Passionate
AAM: Where do you see the industry in 10 years?
Helen Trask: In 1980 my college journalism professor told the class that newspapers would not exist in 20 years. Forty-three years later, newspapers exist. News is like the air we breathe. It’s always there, and as long as that simple fact remains, we must be bold in looking for new ways to deliver on good, sound journalism. The platform will likely be digital in nature, but as technology evolves, so must our industry. I don’t believe that websites will look the way they do today. Experience is key to drawing in subscribers and advertisers.
To read more interviews with AAM’s Media Mavens, visit auditedmedia.com.
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