Three Take Top Innovator Awards

In addition to bestowing awards on companies for their collective enterprise in the world of digital media, LMA’s 2017 Digital Innovation Contest also honored three individuals for their distinguished accomplishments.

Sherry Jones, StarNews Media/GateHouse Media, received the Local Media Digital News Innovator of the Year award for her remarkable work at StarNews in Wilmington, N.C., a GateHouse Media property. Executive editor Pam Sanders calls her the underpinning for their newsroom’s digital innovation and sites an incredible array of initiatives that Jones is leading.

“We all occasionally talk about ‘who would be on our digital island’. No matter whom you ask in our newsroom (and some others), the first name would be Sherry Jones,” says Sanders.

Among the innovations that give Sherry digital rock star status:

News budget: Sherry developed a digital-focused budgeting system that’s been key to getting everyone on the same page.

Tracking and sharing: Sherry began a twice-daily web report that offers insight to others on what’s working and what isn’t.

New website: Sherry led the web team in transitioning their site to a Mario Garcia template in July. Most people in the building commented on the seamlessness of it.

Mobile, mobile: Sherry has converted the news team to alt-format storytelling and lists. A recent top-performing ASF was “By the numbers: 8 things to know about Wilmington’s new Publix.” It had 10,966 page views with roughly 51 percent coming from mobile.

Audience expansion: In August, StarNews began a Reporter Audience Growth program that Incentivizes reporters to focus on growing their audience. Sherry tracks visitor and page view numbers by reporter and reporter Facebook posts that link to content. Top performers are honored each month.

Reaching core through digital: Sherry oversees the Cape Fear Connects project, geared toward bringing back the old Neighbors section concept in digital form. Nowadays, the same content that was clipped out and shared with family via snail mail is being shared via social. As this hyper-local content gets new life, staffers are sending emails when an item is posted so the sender can share.

Mining  The Archives: Sherry and her team implemented this program and continue to give archived content new life.
Despite this long list of accomplishments, Jones says she doesn’t think of herself as a digital innovator. “What we’ve done to achieve success is less about the latest digital tool or multimedia enhancement but more about establishing processes for planning digital content,” she says. “I do consider our daily story budget to be quite innovative, though, because it truly focuses on digital content as a priority.”

Jon Accarrino, Executive Director of Business Development at Bonneville Salt Lake/KSL NewsRadio in Utah, took top honors as the Local Media Digital Innovator of the Year.

In this newly created role, Accarrino was tasked with creating and leading a team focused on new revenue generation and product growth for NBC KSL-TV, KSL NewsRadio, 103.5 The Arrow and FM100.3.

In nominating Jon for this award, Emily Hunt, Director of Sales, praised him as a best-in-class sales and marketing expert and as a compassionate mentor. “When he creates marketing business strategies, he brings along his team, helping them to grow into leadership roles,” said Hunt.

“We had an incredible year at Bonneville Salt Lake and this award feels like the icing on the cake,” says Accarrino. ”The chemistry between departments at Bonneville Salt Lake is something I’ve never experienced before in my career. News, programming, sales, promotions, engineering and digital all rally together to help problem solve and execute big projects.”

Some of Accarrino’s accomplishments:

-Breaking the boundaries normally associated with a traditional radio station, Jon proposed a

new ‘radio you can see’ strategy that focused on visual content for audiences. By creating sales-driven video programming and video display advertising for live studio cameras, advertisers are able to reach radio audiences in completely new ways.

-For KSL NewsRadio’s digital audio inventory, Jon’s team led the search optimization and distribution of its podcast strategy. Their efforts helped grow downloads of existing on-air programs by 291 percent. And, the podcast ad inventory management system has created close to $1.1 million in new annual revenue.

– The Nightside Project, a decade long staple on KSL radio, transitioned from a terrestrial broadcast to a digital only offering. Jon’s team coordinated sales and programming efforts and the monthly downloads have skyrocketed from 5,000 (May) to 60,000 (December), leading to new revenue via an exclusive sponsorship.
-For Bonneville Salt Lake’s music stations, Jon’s team worked closely with sales, programming and Bonneville digital to create a new interactive music-streaming concept called “Dashboards.” An industry first, it creates a fun and branded experience companion to the stations’ digital audio streams, boosts engagement with talent and gives listeners access to song lyrics, album artwork and exclusive contests.

-Capping off 2016, Jon led the project management and business development of KSL’s new suite of TV apps. Available on Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast and Fire TV, the apps create a new platform to deliver broadcast content from KSL-TV and KSL NewsRadio to audiences without traditional cable, satellite of broadcast TV access. The suite of apps launched late 2016 with over 400 pieces of content and live video streams, has increased audience access to content and opened new revenue opportunities.

John Peterson, account executive at Sinclair Broadcasting Group, was runner up as the Local Media Digital Innovator of the Year.

General Sales Manager Pam Simpson praised John as a truly innovative media specialist and an early adaptor to the assets and analytics the digital space offers to their clients. He is the first specialist within Sinclair to optimize the collateral assets and among his recent accomplishments; John closed a $2.5 million 2-year deal with a local Personal Injury Firm.

“Without a doubt, John continues to strive for excellence in offerings of service and results,” said Simpson.