The new owners and management of The San Diego Union-Tribune held an all-staff breakfast this morning outlining the company's new media strategy, including a robust 90-day plan. Employees were also given free Christmas turkeys.
Mike Hodges, the U-T's new president and COO, told the staff that the newspaper, which was purchased this month by a company owned by developer Doug Manchester and radio executive John Lynch, will move "extremely fast" to re-brand itself. According to a leaked recording of the meeting, within the next 90 days, the U-T will:
• Unify its online and print brands. Hodges noted that advertisers and readers are receiving mixed messages because the newspaper is markedly different in design than its Signonsandiego.com website. A redesign that unites the company's print, online and mobile products is in the works.
• The entire sales staff will receive training in selling digital advertising by mid-January.
• They will develop a "world-class loyalty program," in which customers who participate in the company's Daily Deals program will receive free subscriptions.
Hodges also indicated that the paper will provide additional training for current staff and will consider hiring new reporters. There was repeated emphasis on cross-platform integration (print, audio, digital) and 24-hour coverage.
"What we need to do is create an environment and a space to allow the creativity and the passion that is in all of us to come out, OK?" Hodges said. "Doing that means a culture change, but in a positive way.... We want to create a culture where people come to work here and it feels like they work at Facebook or Google. It’s progressive in nature. We want everyone to be fired up to come in here."
During his address, Lynch revealed that the purchase has been in the works for about a year, when Lynch had expressed interest in only purchasing the U-T's Daily Deals program.
Manchester also reiterated some of the verbiage regarding content that has worried media watchdogs and members of the U-T's newsroom:
"I feel so strongly that our news organization can be the cheerleader for what is good in our city versus possibly what's negative," Manchester said. "It can support the Chargers [and] the greater business community without sacrificing the environment.... I know the news can’t always be positive, but certainly it can be more positive than it has been in past if we can point out what’s good and what’s right and be the cheerleader for San Diego."
The meeting was held at Union-Tribune offices and reportedly had a killer breakfast buffet.
Correction: We erroneously initially reported that the event was at the Grand Del Mar.