133rd Inland Annual Meeting

Back to Chicago in strength, into the future with confidence


After last year holding an Annual Meeting outside of Chicago for the first time in 132 years, Inland’s most important gathering returns to the city of its founding with a program reflecting its legacy of practicality that also is always forward-looking.

Real Revenue. Real Newspapers. Real Success. The theme of the 133rd Annual Meeting fits a hometown venue that variously prides itself as the City of Big Shoulders, The City That Works and, thanks to the Batman movies filmed in Chicago, The Real Gotham.

This year’s program finds the real in session topics that might, at first glance, seem more futuristic or abstract than real. But the practical is ever-present from the opening of NextTech on 1:45 p.m. on Sunday September 9 to the bonus session—an innovation workshop incorporating the methods of design thinking—on Tuesday that concludes the conference at 3:30 p.m.

Start with the NextTech presentations. Its title signals its real-life focus: New ways to monetize old digital challenges. Three young companies that already have proven results in the newspaper and media industry will present solutions that address the goals that sometimes seem just out of reach for publishers: Higher CPMs from digital ads, better viewability of the ads they do get, and reliably traceable results.

NextTech presenter Evvnt is, as its name suggests, an event distribution platform, providing a turnkey solution to turn events listing—a staple of every newspaper’s print and web offerings—into significant revenue generators. Evvnt’s presentation will mark its aggressive move into the U.S. market, where it already has secured its first client.

Optimera comes right out of a newspaper, the New York Daily News. It offers an automated solution for discovering, managing, targeting and optimizing viewability—that is, ensuring that ads are served in locations that consumers can actually see them.

And Spotible is a digital version of a traditional role of a newspaper’s sales department: Creating ads for its clients or making spec ads to gain new business. Spotible’s custom ad creation—along technology for AI classification and cross-channel targeting—allows sales departments to quickly and easily deliver high-quality advertisements that really look like they belong in the digital era.

And after the formal end of the Annual Meeting, the bonus session Innovation Workshop similarly takes a digital era approach to such chronic newspaper issues as growing subscriptions, finding new revenue sources—and getting people to read the darned newspaper.

The workshop is led by Jennifer Brandel, the co-founder and CEO of Hearken, which offers an audience engagement platform that not only leads to content that outperforms typical newspaper content on the web, but also helps collect email addresses for newsletters and paid subscriptions.

Brandel’s workshop will present ways to use the concept of design thinking to these real-life goals and challenges.

Her workshop will be, in effect, teed up the day before, on Monday at 2:30 by the concurrent session entitled Design thinking: A creative approach to problem solving. Tran Ha, who founded Tiny Collaborative, which employs design thinking to fuel innovation, digital transformation, audience development and business strategies.

Tiny Collaborative’s newspaper and media industry bona fides? It has worked with Schurz Communications, The McClatchy Company, Advance Local Media Group and ProPublica.