Mr. Griffin spoke with Ad Age about this appointment and the
Tribune's digital future. He declined to comment on whether more
layoffs will hit Tribune newspapers or whether the Tribune will
sell the L.A. Times, saying only that Tribune was "committed to the
spin" and that he was "unaware of any such discussions." Our
conversation was lightly edited.
Advertising Age: How long is your contract?
Will you continue to lead Tribune Publishing past the spin off?
Jack Griffin: Yes, I've signed a multiyear
Ad Age: As Tribune
Co. readies itself to go public, the various newspapers will have
to show digital growth if they hope to attract the attention of
Wall Street. Why are you qualified to lead the company during this
Mr. Griffin: I've been working with Tribune for
the past year. I've had the great benefit of getting to know,
people, culture and brands. My career at Meredith has also helped
prepared me. I ran the division that built the Meredith digital
consulting business -- and that was a long time ago. So that's some
of the sensibility of this job and an imperative for the
Ad Age: Tribune has a marketing division,
Mr. Griffin: Yes, there's a marketing arm
inside Tribune publishing. I think it's sitting there waiting to be
further developed and an exciting thing to work on. I would
characterize Tribune publishing as having real digital chops.
That's a big item on the list to continue that and certainly
important in a public company environment.
Ad Age: What are Tribune's "digital chops"?
Mr. Griffin: I can't give out numbers in the
public domain, but it generates significant revenues on digital
platforms. With the marketing arm, each of those papers has a go-to
market function that offers a whole suite of services to local
advertisers and marketers. There's a digital DNA there.
As a broad general statement, the way that these papers break
news is irrespective to the platform. If news is broken in Chicago,
it's broken on the web. I think continuing to refine and develop
the digital sensibility is what running these companies is
increasingly about. The newsrooms are increasingly organized that
way. Work flows are built in side of that. And it's increasingly
Ad Age: Digital subscriptions are becoming an
increasingly important part of newspapers' revenue, but advertising
remains essential. To that end, why should marketers care about the
Mr. Griffin: They're big important markets --
number two and three markets in L.A. and Chicago -- with newspapers
that are dominant franchises there to reach consumers. Newspaper
advertising works. I'm not going to name any in particular, but
there are examples of retailers that abandoned newspapers and came
to regret it. Newspaper advertising is responsive and immediate and
tells the consumer what they are looking for or might be looking
Ad Age: The small pool of local marketing
dollars are flowing towards Facebook and Google. How can Tribune
reverse that flow, or at least slow it down?
Mr. Griffin: It's sort of axiomatic. Every
media franchise and property has more competition today than
yesterday and will have more tomorrow than they do today.
Newspapers aren't alone. The job and skill of great marketers is to
find and reach the prospect and convey the benefits of what they're
selling and providing and persuade them to be a customer. That's
what we do. I can't give you any more of a magic answer other than
it's a lot of hard work and showing up and developing products that