Looking to better leverage its media companies with an eye to an already impressive Internet presence and financial opportunities, Deseret Management Corporation is creating two new operating divisions — one through addition, the second through subtraction.
The latter is the most simple to explain, said first-year DMC president and CEO Mark Willes, with the flagship stations of KSL-TV and KSL Radio being split from current parent Bonneville International and to comprise the new KSL Broadcasting.
Besides allowing Bonneville to focus on its 28 affiliate radio stations nationally and its broadcast distribution and public service announcement services, the new division allows the two KSLs separate standing, individual focus and a position to better integrate into DMC's second new division.
The second — Deseret Digital Media — is a new company created to manage the Web sites and business operations for DMC's Deseret News, Deseret Book and new KSL Broadcasting subsidiaries.
The companies' Web sites will remain separate, but combining them under one umbrella will allow the new division to streamline operations and increase revenue by selling bulk online advertising.
"Strategy ought to determine structure, which then determines performance," said Willes of Thursday's moves.
Of combining the KSL, Deseret News and Deseret Book technical and business Web operations, Willes said DMC is patterning itself after other media online successes and expecting to see total online revenues increase two- to fivefold.
"That's exactly what they've done," he said. "They've taken the Internet activities and set them up as a separate division so that you can have people who can focus exclusively and entirely on that business — and I emphasize 'business' because if you can't turn it into a business, you can't afford it."
The new divisions were announced at simultaneous staff meetings Thursday morning at each of the DMC's seven existing companies.
KSL Broadcasting becomes effective Thursday, while Deseret Digital Media starts to function Oct. 1, with an anticipated four- to six-week ramp up to get and running in 2009's fourth quarter in order to be on its own budget by the first of next year.
Other than the upcoming consolidation of Internet operations and personnel and the likelihood of additional hiring at the new Deseret Digital Media, staffs at the two KSL stations, the Deseret News and Deseret Book should see little change.
The same with the viewers, listeners and readers of those companies, as even the varied Web sites will remain separate and similar to their current appearances.
However, besides anticipating increased online revenues, a future benefit will be cooperative efforts across DMC's media platforms — audio, visual and print — that can benefit not only DMC's Salt Lake City and Utah markets but that can continue to grow nationally and internationally as well.
"We will find ways to leverage across platforms in ways that we've never done before or in ways that we haven't done easily before," Willes said.
Clark Gilbert will be president and chief executive officer of Deseret Digital Media. Currently an associate academic vice president at BYU-Idaho overseeing the university's online initiative and education outreach efforts, he was previously at Harvard Business School, specializing in innovations in digital news media.
Gilbert calls DMC's combined media Internet assets "a fabulous beginning," with a total of nearly 4 million unique users and more than 200 million online impressions a month from the state's most popular print media Web site (deseretnews.com), the nation's most popular local market media site (ksl.com) and the Church's most financially successful media online site (deseretbook.com).
With the sites' existing audience, content and traffic, Gilbert says the next step is to add a financial model to sustain and grow the Internet side, pointing to successes with New York Times Digital, Boston.com, Dallas' Belo and the McClatchy Interactive of more similar-sized markets such as Sacramento, Fresno, Kansas City and Charlotte.
"There are benchmarks out there that show us this can be done in a way where the online business model can sustain a news organization all by itself," he said.
KSL Broadcasting will be led by president/CEO Bob Johnson, currently Bonneville International's executive vice president and Salt Lake market manager. Previously, Johnson was Bonneville's general counsel as well as an attorney practicing in both Washington, D.C., and Salt Lake City.
"This is an important time for us to find value in our associations with the Deseret News, Deseret Book and the new Deseret Digital Media and in having a more Salt Lake-centric focus," Johnson said.
Bruce Reese will continue as president and CEO of the now-trimmed Bonneville International, which still includes local radio affiliates KSFI (FM 100) and KRSP (103.5 The Arrow).
Leaders of DMC peer divisions are anxious and enthused with the new moves.
"I believe this is great for the Deseret News for at least two reasons," said Deseret News editor Joe Cannon. "First, it dramatically increases the opportunity for us online because we'll be part of other Web sites and platforms, which multiplies our audience. And second, the increasing collaboration with KSL and Deseret Book can only benefit our readers."
Deseret Book president and CEO Sheri Dew underscored the importance of media communicating with its audience in as many senses as possible. "You want them to be able to watch you, to read you, to hear you," she said. "These days, you have to know how to package your content in every conceivable way."
And of the multi-platform possibilities now being pushed by DMC, she added: "When you put the assets together, the sum will be way greater than the individual parts alone."
For Willes, the announcement of the new divisions was one of the most pleasurable moves of his first six months as DMC president/CEO, after a series of early-tenure consolidation and cost-cutting moves that included restructuring the boards of directors at all of DMC's subsidiaries, salary reductions and benefits adjustments at Bonneville International and job cuts and discontinuing the writing of new polices at the insurance and annuities division of Beneficial Financial Group.
"It is so nice to be talking about growth, instead of cutting back at this point," said Willes, his voice trailing off as he echoed the emphasis. "It's really nice, so very nice."
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