Tribune Publishing Taps Former Times Exec Denise Warren to Lead Digital

Also Named to Lead Six East Coast Newspapers

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Denise Warren
Denise Warren

Tribune Publishing, owner of nearly a dozen daily newspapers including The Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, has hired former New York Times executive Denise Warren to lead its digital side, the company announced Wednesday afternoon.

Ms. Warren will also oversee Tribune's six East Coast newspapers, including the Baltimore Sun and Hartford Courant.

The hiring of Ms. Warren comes as Tribune Publishing looks to dramatically grow both its digital advertising and subscriptions at a time when consumers are turning to digital outlets for the news and marketers are shifting their ad budgets to reach them.

Digital sales comprised 12% of Tribune Publishing's overall revenue in the first quarter, the company told Wall Street investors last week.

"I believe in mission-driven businesses," Ms. Warren said, pointing to the Tribune's award-winning journalism. "And I've spent the better part of my career at mission-driven businesses … I can make a real difference here given my background and experience."

It's certainly a broad assignment for Ms. Warren, but she comes with a pedigree that suits the current executive staff at Tribune Publishing, which consists of veterans of the New York publishing world. Mr. Griffin spent a dozen years at Meredith, where he ran the national magazine group, and then roughly six months at the helm of Time Inc. Michael Rooney, Tribune Publishing chief revenue officer, held the same position at The Wall Street Journal.

Ms. Warren spent 26 years at the Times, where she ultimately led its digital strategy including the rollout of the paper's digital-only subscription model. The Times now has more than 900,000 digital-only subscribers and expects to hit a million soon, despite experiencing some recent headwinds in that area.

The Times' digital-subscription model is the "envy of the industry," Mr. Griffin said.

Before taking on the digital job at the Times, she served as chief advertising officer. Ms. Warren left the company last fall amid "organizational changes."

"If there's anything that Denise demonstrated at the Times, it's a tremendous ability to monetize consumer and marketer interactions," Mr. Griffin said.

Ms. Warren, who starts next month and will work from New York, joins Tribune at a precarious time (though Mr. Griffin called it "auspicious"). Last year, the newspapers were spun off from Tribune's more lucrative TV stations. During the first quarter, ad sales fell 5.7% from the quarter a year earlier to $220 million, fueled by print losses. Overall ad revenue fell 5% to $396 million.

But the company has also made some aggressive moves. Under Mr. Griffin and Mr. Rooney, Tribune has reorganized parts of its ad-sales team and focused on selling more digital-only subscriptions. Those efforts are nascent. Across all Tribune newspapers, there were 67,000 digital-only subscribers at the end of the first quarter.

The company has also looked to build up its content-marketing services arm, which generated $6.4 million in revenue during the first quarter, a 40% year-over-year increase. Last year, Tribune Publishing took a stake in a company called Contend, which makes branded videos.

Last week, it bought the Diego Union-Tribune newspaper for $85 million. Tribune Publishing acquired a group of suburban Chicago newspapers last year, plus two community papers near Baltimore.

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