Three finalists (listed below in alphabetical order) have been announced for the Mega-Innovation Award.
Their stories will be told Tuesday, Feb. 18, on the Mega-Conference stage ... and there is much every media company can learn from them.
As Vince Johnson, publisher of The Sumter (S.C.) Item phrased it in his paper's nomination, "Like many other small-town newspapers, we couldn't innovate for the joy of innovation. Our innovation had to work for our survival, and it has."
Hear the stories of innovation, survival and ways these newspapers are connecting with their readers at the Mega-Conference.
- Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Little Rock, Ark. — Faced in 2018 with his newspaper's first unprofitable year in two decades, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Publisher Walter E. Hussman Jr. knew he had to do something bold if he was going to keep alive the 200-year-old legacy of Arkansas' statewide newspaper. "One logical option was to cut back on unprofitable circulation in remote areas of the state, something most newspapers had done years earlier," Hussman wrote in a May 2019 letter to subscribers. "But realizing that newspapers are not just a business, but a public trust vital to our democracy, we tried to determine some way we could continue to be a statewide newspaper delivered to all 75 counties." That "some way" became what is known now as the "iPad initiative."
- The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, Utah — For nearly 150 years, The Salt Lake Tribune has served as Utah's independent voice. With continued pressures on the traditional business model of local newspapers, Paul C. Huntsman, owner and publisher of The Tribune, sought to take matters into his own hands and create a new, sustainable course. First, the paper embraced the fact that The Tribune is a civic rather than a commercial enterprise and in April 2019 applications were filed with the Internal Revenue Service to create two new organizations: the nonprofit Salt Lake Tribune and the Utah Journalism Foundation. Nonprofit status was granted by the IRS in late October, months earlier than anticipated.
- The Sumter Item — This 10,000-circulation, 125-year-old family newspaper in rural South Carolina has been hard at work, adding a full-scaled sponsored video department, gathering and utilizing user and advertiser data, creating community events and rebuilding its print and digital products. Its innovation hasn't just changed the staff and its business, it's leading the way in the transformation and growth of the community. Community events are now must-attend and local businesses are flocking toward the paper's building in downtown Sumter — a downtrodden area just a few years ago. The staff of about 25 today is lively and collaborative, with even the most long-standing employees bringing new ideas to build the paper's role as the cross-platform information hub of the region.
The Mega-Innovation Award was created to identify and reward those companies that are successfully transitioning their businesses to take advantage of the emerging trends in media and marketing.