If local is good, why not be local in multiple locales? Tiger Oak Media is working on mastery of local multiples, with focused content, an ear for audience, and EOS. We spoke with Tony Bednar, President of Tiger Oak Media, to learn more about the company’s strategies.
MMPA: One of the biggest stories in media today is the decline of “local” journalism, from struggling local papers to hometown TV news. Tiger Oak seems focused on local/regional publishing. How is what you do different from the local news story?
Tony Bednar: I think we face similar challenges. We, however, have very targeted audiences, which helps. We remain dedicated to creating quality content. But at the end of the day, we need to attract advertisers. It pushes us to evolve; we complement our print with digital solutions, and we build packages by listening to what our customers want. It really is a multi-media solution. We stick to our roots but we also recognize the need to diversify.
MMPA: You started at Tiger Oak in May and were probably challenged early with shutting down Minnesota Business magazine. How difficult was that?
Bednar: It was extremely difficult. Minnesota Business has a great reputation and brand. When you went to our events – and this was an event-driven publication – it was always a high energy crowd made up of both industry veterans and younger business owners and executives. But when we looked at the P&L, it wasn’t where we needed it to be. I still think it has a lot of potential for the right person or group. I would love to find a new home for it.
MMPA: Your experience is not in publishing. What do you bring to Tiger Oak, and what has publishing taught you?
Bednar: What do I bring to Tiger Oak? I worked for a large company, Merrill Corporation, for almost 20 years and held a variety of leadership and management roles. I bring a vast level of experience running businesses and divisions that have faced a variety of challenges.
One thing publishing has taught me is that you need to embrace change and be willing to evolve in order to stay current and meet the needs of your readers and advertisers. I am not sure exactly what Tiger Oak will look like ten years from now but I get excited thinking about the journey.
I love working in a small business and having the ability to make the day-to-day changes needed to drive the business forward. We’re focused on getting back on a growth track. In tough market periods, companies that aren’t very good go away. Great companies grow and prosper.
MMPA: We’re focused on Minnesota publishing of course. How does our publishing market compare to others Tiger Oak works in? How about the overall business environment comparison? (Note: Tiger Oak Media has offices in Minneapolis and Seattle.)
Bednar: We have tough competition in Minnesota. Of course, we have tough competition in every market. Minnesota has more mature competition, perhaps, and we have to fight for advertising dollars. Honestly, to answer this question, we’d need to look at each title individually. Seattle Magazine does very well for us, No. 1 in that market.
MMPA: Tiger Oak has several “local” offices, publishing niches and markets. How do you find efficiencies that serve all of Tiger Oak?
Bednar: The short answer is EOS. We are in the process of implementing the Entrepreneurial Operating System to help us run a more efficient business. As a result, we created standard workflows and processes that allow us to better manage workloads across sites. We also adjusted our organizational structure to make it easier for us to manage expenses. As an example, we added a V.P. of Content to our leadership team. This individual is accountable for managing art and editorial resources across the organization.
We are striving to create a team dynamic that allows employees the flexibility they need to produce their best work.
MMPA: Events and Publishing? Are they the same thing?
Bednar: The short answer is Yes. Publishing is not just magazines any more. Our niche is building a targeted audience that our advertisers want to get in front of. We can build continuity across publishing and events by focusing on the art of this idea.
MMPA: How does Tiger Oak listen for feedback and learning?
Bednar: One primary way is through our sales force, where we stay connected to our advertisers. We want our sales force to be the voice of the customer. As a business, if you listen to your audience, you’ll make good decisions. For readers, we do surveys, we look at web stats. We have a variety of ways to determine what our readers want and need.