In a time of great transformation in our industry, it’s vital that inland remain focused on the critical question that will allow us to serve our membership well.
What will our industry look like in the coming years and what do we need to do now and moving forward to remain relevant and vital to our members?
To answer that question, we’ve listened to our members. Earlier this spring, we surveyed the entire membership, and the nearly 400 responses helped us better understand what our members want and need.
We’ve listened to our engaged board of directors. At its summer strategic planning meeting, the board identified a number of important and exciting initiatives, including specific deliverables and timetables. I’ll come back to those in a moment.
And, we’ve listened to dozens of smart operators that are having real success in transitioning their businesses in many ways. This year’s annual meeting — Inland’s 131st — is primarily devoted to telling the stories of those successes.
Some of the initiatives I mentioned earlier will be easily visible. Others will be less obvious, but still important to the organization’s future.
First, our membership is stable with nearly 1,000 daily and non-daily members, across all 50 states. The board is committed to growing that membership through active, member-driven recruitment with specific annual growth targets. But, we also want an engaged membership and we’ve committed to increasing that important metric – again with specific yearly targets.
Recognizing the evolution of our membership, at its meeting this month the board will consider a proposal to create a new associate membership classification for online-first, or online only newspapers. We’re also adding digital natives from member publications to our board, broadening the horizon of our planning and programs.
We’re also committed to industry collaboration. We’re excited to announce that Inland and SNPA will hold joint annual meetings next September in Colorado Springs. We believe bringing our two organizations together for this meeting will create a tremendous programmatic and financial success. That joint meeting builds on our other partnership, the very successful Key Executives Mega-Conference. Inland, SNPA and the Local Media Association sponsor that heavily attended conference — now recognized as one of the must-attend industry meetings. We also work with our state association partners, providing access to our robust schedule of well-received webinars.
By year’s end, we expect to have hosted more than 50 webinars, covering a variety of important topics and attended by nearly 2,500 newspaper participants. Every webinar participant receives a summary of key takeaways for the webinar. Members tell us just those summaries, alone, more than justify their annual dues.
Because of their popularity, we’re expanding the takeaways to every one of our in-person conferences during the year — including every session at the annual meeting. We believe this enhancement is unique to Inland and helps fulfill our commitment and mission of sharing best practices.
Among other major, and visible changes over the next weeks, we’re excited about the upcoming launch of our new website, and a complete redesign of The Inlander, our monthly newspaper distributed to all members. This push also includes the addition of a marketing manager to boost our marketing outreach and positioning.
Less visible, but important, we completed a long-awaited update of member data and contact information which will be followed later this fall by implementation of a new association membership system. These changes will allow us to better target programs and Inland offerings to all members providing increased membership value and higher engagement levels. And, Executive Director Tom Slaughter is extending our outreach to current and potential members with visits and other contacts.
There are more achievements to report. The association and foundation are tracking their yearly financial targets. We’re also actively working to further improve our financial sustainability by making sensible and prudent expense adjustments, paired with targeted revenue increases. We’ve conducted five foundation-sponsored conferences this year, ranging from the industry’s only meeting for family owners, to HR issues, sales and audience. We also continue to support industry-leading benchmarking, including Publisher Benchmarks and our compensation survey.
All of this takes teamwork, from our board, active and effective committees, and the Inland staff. It’s been my privilege to see that effort up close this past year to further recognize and appreciate the difference it really makes. A big thank-you to this group; they do more than you may realize.
Inland continues to feature strong fellowship, camaraderie and collective commitment to help advance each other and this special group. It’s a hard combination to find elsewhere that’s refreshing and reassuring, especially as we all face new challenges and opportunities in our evolving business.
No other group brings all of this together like Inland. Everyone matters; thanks for being a part of it.
Inland Association President