At Leading in Local: ILM 2013: Audrey Cooper Re-Imagines the Newspaper of the Future


Audrey Cooper is still new to her role as Managing Editor of SF Chronicle/SF Gate, but she’s already bubbling with ideas and an enthusiastic vision for bridging content and advertising in a digital-first environment. In a fireside chat at Leading In Local: Interactive Local Media, she ran through a multitude of new products, platforms and content features to paint the picture of a robust but fast-changing digital organization that also happens to print a newspaper.

One of Cooper’s chief goals is to “package content in a way that’s more approachable to advertisers.” That doesn’t mean bending journalistic ethics and norms – “highfalutin journalism” is still critical to the mission – but “finding the type of content that people are interested in” across numerous verticals and then creating an accessible and desirable advertiser connection.

A prime example is food. In the foodie capital that is SF, SF Chronicle/SF Gate are using a variety of means, including crowdsourced content, to maintain a strong voice. “People communicate with us through Facebook, Instagram, e-mail. We have to find ways to draw more voices into the paper.” Tech coverage is a similar challenge, with a bevy of blogs and websites competing for traffic.

The company is also investing heavily in online video, not as a TV replacement, but as an additive source. “Sometimes we can do it better than TV because we’re not limited to a specific time or segment. And we can do it well on mobile.”

At the end of the day, SF Chronicle/SF Gate still maintain powerful local assets: 18 million monthly unique visitors, 175 reporters (with more journalists on specific beats than many competitors have in their entire newsroom), and the flexibility from parent company Hearst to be digitally-focused and experiment.

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