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An Industry in Transition
posted: 11/9/2015

 David Chavern
by: Nu Yang, Editor & Publisher

As the new president and chief executive officer of the Newspaper Association of America, David Chavern is on a mission to tell the story of newspapers. Chavern, who started his position last month, succeeds Caroline Little, who led the association for four years (see below).

Chavern spent the last 30 years in executive strategic and operational roles, and most recently completed a decade-long tenure at the United States Chamber of Commerce. From 2014 to 2015, he served as the president of the Center for Advanced Technology & Innovation at the Chamber. Prior to that, Chavern was the Chamber’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. In that role, he was responsible for the day-to-day operations and long-term planning for the 500-person advocacy organization.

Now, he is the head of a trade association representing 2,000 newspapers in the U.S. and Canada.

As an industry outsider, Chavern said his first steps are to “learn the people” and to “learn the technology behind the papers” including their advertising networks.

He understands that raising revenue is an important factor for many publishers. While at the Chamber, Chavern helped grow total revenues by 60 percent, and successfully guided the organization through intense scrutiny from both the media and activists. He also managed revenue growth and expense reductions, and ended the 2013 fiscal year with the best financial performance in the Chamber’s 100-year history, according to a press release.

NAA board chairman Donna Barrett, president and CEO of Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc., said after a three month search and two rounds of interviews with candidates, Chavern was the board’s unanimous choice to become their next president and CEO. Although they looked at people from inside and outside of the industry, Chavern’s strengths “shone through.”

Not only did he have the skills to lead a large association, Barrett said, Chavern was also a communicator. “We needed someone to be our storyteller and tell the positive stories of newspapers,” she said. “Someone who can also be an ambassador to newspapers advertisers.”

And Chavern is ready to take on those tasks. Chavern, who reads The Washington Post, New York Times, Financial Times, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (his hometown paper), said he’s going to first spend some time listening to people and then develop a long-term strategy to create growth and value to NAA members.

In an industry full of storytellers, Chavern is prepared to become one for newspapers, that despite the financial challenges, there’s still good news to be told. “I want to tell the story to the public and to policymakers that people still want the product. They want news; they want journalism.”

Caroline Little reflects on her tenure 

When Caroline Little was named president and chief executive officer of the Newspaper Association of America in 2011, the industry was in a state of transition as digital platforms became more popular and print revenue continued its decline.

Little, who previously served as CEO, North America of Guardian News and Media Ltd and as publisher and CEO of Washington Post Newsweek Interactive, believed she was tapped for the position due to her background in digital.

In her last CEO column (bit.ly/1Kr3rqt), Little said she “watched nearly every media industry shift dramatically in response to the ever-changing technology and consumption habits of our audiences.

“The same holds true for newspapers. This industry has been around far longer than radio, television or telecommunications, and some critics have questioned how we will continue to remain relevant in today’s digital world.”

Speaking with E&P, Little said she believed readership was at an all-time high, and that was due to the growth seen in digital audiences.

“Newspapers are leveraging technology and audience data more than ever to create new content, products and services that attract audiences and advertisers,” she said in her column.

In her four years, Little led the merger of the American Press Institute with the NAA Foundation in 2012 and planned three mediaXchange conferences (the annual NAA industry conference). She also focused on lobbying in Washington D.C. on issues critical to the industry.

When asked about how the NAA planned to attract younger newspaper leaders, Little said she saw a “changing of the guard” in the next five to 10 years. She said the board is constantly engaging with up-and-coming publishers, and many of them are already active on committees.

As Little reflected on her tenure, she said the NAA’s mission was rooted in three areas: playing a useful role on Capitol Hill on behalf of newspapers; sharing newspaper best practices; and serving as an advocate for the industry.

Little, who is leaving D.C. to join her family in New Mexico, said her reason for stepping down from her position now was because she was ready for change.

The latest developments on social media, apps, print special features, native advertising, and new revenue streams also signal a change in the industry’s direction going forward, Little said in her column.

But will these changes save the industry?

“It’s not a question of saving the industry,” she told E&P. “It’s a matter of how they will help it transform and evolve.” – See more at: http://www.editorandpublisher.com/Features/Article/An-Industry-in-Transition#sthash.wHSLGsgn.dpuf

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