Q&A with Jeff Carney, BH Media, Corporate Director/Digital Content Development

First, tell us a little about your career?

I grew up in a newspaper family, with parents that published community newspapers. While a journalism student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I was a stringer for the Associated Press, which offered me a staff position upon graduation. It was with the wire service in Kansas City that I was first exposed to the digital evolution of our business. I’ve also had staff and management roles with the Des Moines Register and Omaha World-Herald. Digital  has always been a part of my job, whether it was photojournalism, page design, video, or overseeing our website operations. I’ve definitely worn many hats during my career.

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What do you do in your current role?

I work with our group’s editors and site managers across 10 states, assisting them in growing and engaging their digital audiences. This is both an operational and strategic position, so we’re dealing with day-to-day technical issues as well as looking out to the audience and news horizon.

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You work with newsrooms all over the country. What’s the best and hardest part of that?

I have the privilege of working with some incredible talent across our group. There’s a lot of hard work and innovative thinking that’s going on, as we all try to meet and exceed the expectations of our readers. The hardest part of my job is trying to be everywhere at the same time. And rarely do we have one-size-fits-all solutions, because each of markets are unique. So you definitely need to be flexible and creative in how we approach our work.

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How is BH Media approaching social media today? Aggressive? Wait and see approach?

Great question. I don’t believe anyone can afford to wait and see. Like most publishers, we drive a lot of engagement through Facebook and Twitter. Even before all of the recent FB algorithm announcements, we made a strategic decision to lessen our dependency on social referral sources. Today we are working hard to grow our search and direct traffic sources. The good news is by diversifying our traffic sources, we’re lowering bounce rates and improving revenue through our email-related products. And to be clear, we’re still aggressively engaging audiences on social channels, but that effort can’t come at the expense of search and direct traffic.

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What product or technology improvement are you most proud of in the last year at BH Media?

We’ve made great strides with improving the experiences of our audiences, especially when it comes to load times. We are focused on eliminating slow loading elements to all of our desktop and mobile sites. From programmatic challenges, to video and other news-related content, everything is on the table. In some cases, we’ve cut our load times in half.

We also launched a centralized digital content exchange in Q4 of last year. So we’re now syndicating our best stories, photo galleries and video across all of our sites. This was a huge effort, and required buy-in from all of our newsrooms. But we’re live and the effort is driving more page views and engagement for all of our sites.

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What keeps you up at night about the industry?

The single biggest concern of mine is our sense of urgency. Our industry is not transforming itself fast enough. Disruption is continuing. The good news is there are a lot of talented people across our business who are all pushing in the same direction. And the sharing of ideas and lessons-learned through groups like the Local Media Association has been incredibly valuable.

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What do you think has to happen for newsrooms to make the full transition to digital from a culture perspective?

Commitment to digital can only come when everyone makes it a top priority. Our legacy print business is still an important, vital part of our business. But I’m excited to see that many of our newsrooms have embraced their digital culture and future. They’ve committed resources to their digital effort and it’s paying off. Also, we’re a relatively young company, so I think that gives us an advantage.