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In Orlando, the Mega-Conference gets down to business

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The 2017 edition of the Key Executives Mega-Conference announces its intentions for its three days in Orlando with its theme: Innovation & Insight: The Business of Publishing News.

Business is the key word, as sessions circle back repeatedly to what is working in the newspaper industry--and what shows concrete, not theoretical, promise for the future.

Consider, for instance, the breakout session presenter Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, The Washington Post's managing editor for digital, has titled "Leveraging the Frenemy." At a time when publishers are increasingly wary of presenting content through platforms such as Facebook or Tumbler, Garcia-Ruiz will detail the real-life results of The Post's distributed content strategy.

By hitching much of its content to newspaper "frenemies" among social media, The Post's digital audience has more than tripled in the last three years to almost 100 million unique visitors--and lifting it to a place among the world's fastest-growing media companies.

Similarly, another breakout session will look at the science behind a traditional strength of newspapers--storytelling--with the goal of getting newsrooms into the business of successfully engaging their audiences. Matt Sheehan, director of stories and emerging platforms at the University of Florida's College of Journalism & Communications, will guide Mega-Conference attendees through the research that reveals why the presentation of content matters in growing audience

Right from the start, the Mega-Conference concerns itself with monetizing the things this legacy media does best. In the Thursday, Feb. 23 morning bonus session, Ryan Stephens, who is responsible for global business development at Deseret Digital Media, leads a workshop on native advertising that draws on three years of experience learning what content engages readers, what businesses are the most likely native advertisers and how content can be best customized for local merchants.

And the Mega-Conference will end on a business note, with a presentation by sales motivator Kim Ward aimed at radically improving the "win rates" of sales teams.

Ward, director of training and development for Learning Outsource group, will show the results of a data-driven dissection of the advertising buying decision process--and how it informs a wholly new approach to selling. (One bonus of this session: The first 100 people to show up will receive a free copy of his new book, "The New Selling IQ."

The 2017 Mega-Conference is the seventh since Inland, the Local Media Association and the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association first collaborated on a conference intended to be rich in programming, full of networking opportunities and a fitting showcase for the products and services of the newspaper industry's R&D companies.

This gathering in Orlando February 23 to 25 appears ready to deliver again on those promises. The full program and bios of the presenters begin on page XX.