GateHouse Media, a rollup of community newspapers and shoppers operating in 285 markets, has hired Melinda Gipson from the Newspaper Association of America's New Media Federation. Gipson has been a cornerstone of the New Media Federation since February 1995 — 11 years. For much of that time, she partnered with Rob Runett, who left in April to join The Motley Fool.
Gipson's contribution has been a major one. She hand-coded the association's first Web site, wrote key books on how to sell online advertising (with analysts like me), and immersed herself in the development of newspaper ad networks, community building efforts and lately mobile content strategies. She has been a forceful and effective advocate for newspapers in every forum, whether inside the industry or in advertising forums.
At GateHouse, which is about to IPO, she will join other industry luminaries including Howard Owens, former online leader at The Ventura County Star and The Bakersfield Californian. Heading the online operation is Bill Blevins, who previously ran online ops for CNHI, a counterpart to GateHouse that is largely based in the Southeast.
A major part of Gipson's new job will be the development of national ad and editorial capabilities. Initially, she plans to focus on bringing other community media companies in as GateHouse partners. "You don't have to buy everyone" to work with them, she says. While local remains vitally important for the papers, they can leverage off of national services too, she says. "They need to connect to a bigger brand." She will also be evaluating technology and tools for the company.
Is Gipson part of a newspaper industry brain drain — even though she, arguably, is just moving to "the growth part" of the newspaper industry? She doesn't think so. While the list of people who have left mainstream newspapers is growing, Gipson says they are the ones who best understand the strengths of the newspaper industry and end up acting as ambassadors, just like former McKinsey consultants often support McKinsey assignments in their next jobs.
"Look, Hilary Schneider has taken an important job at Yahoo!. But she is working with newspapers on creating a job network," notes Gipson. She hopes to play a similarly positive role.
Beth Lawton is filling Gipson's shoes at NAA. Lawton will play a big role at the upcoming Connections Conference in Las Vegas Jan. 28-31.