Conan Gallaty first caught the publishing bug as an editor of his high school yearbook. After graduating from the University of Georgia with a degree in journalism, he became a reporter for his hometown newspaper where he learned enough code to help build the first websites for a few local newspapers. His foray into digital had him hooked. He has spent the last two decades focused on digital media strategy, building audiences and revenue for media groups including The New York Times Company, Morris Communications and WEHCO Media. In 2018, he became the first chief digital officer for the Tampa Bay Times where he currently serves as CEO.
Conan shares what excites him about his current role, an initiative that helped his company develop a regional expansion strategy and his advice to those launching a career in news media.
How did you choose your career?
I’ve always enjoyed sharing stories with others. Great narratives can take many formats, and I’ve built a career trying new things. I’ve been fortunate to work with innovative and creative teams that love the craft of journalism and want to see it thrive.
Anything about the industry that’s surprised you?
There’s a false narrative that our industry is slow or resistant to change. I’ve watched and been a part of great innovative initiatives at every company I’ve worked at for the last 20 years. While nothing has been a silver bullet, the fact that local journalism is still standing long after many pundits predicted our death years or decades ago, speaks to the true spirit of our teams.
Can you share an initiative that helped your company innovate?
Most recently we participated in the Media Transformation Challenge, organized by our parent company, The Poynter Institute. It attracts media companies from around the globe and is led by some of the smartest organizational change coaches in the world. Through this program we’ve designed our regional expansion strategy and vision.
What excites you about your role?
There are so many facets to this job. I’m always learning. I never have the same day twice, and I get exposed to amazing people working on substantial challenges for today and tomorrow. I’m incredibly fortunate to be in my position.
What word describes your organization?
We are a company of dedicated professionals who care deeply about our work. The impact we make and our family-oriented culture help us retain top talent.
How has AAM supported your company?
Understanding how audiences consume news has been a career-long quest for me. Services like AAM that clearly measure audience and readership aid in our efforts.
What in your career are you most proud of?
More than awards or accolades, I’m most proud of the people I’ve worked with and the careers I’ve helped launch. Nothing brings me more joy than to help someone discover their talents and passion and watch them grow within our company or beyond it.
What advice would you give someone starting out in your field?
This business has changed dramatically over the last 25 years, but tenacity, creativity and care for people have always helped me make better decisions. I’ve worked in this business in times when it was flush with revenue growth and in times when we had to do massive layoffs and closures. There has never been a time to just coast. There probably never will be. Challenges are always present, but some of my most cherished memories are when we faced major headwinds.
Where do you see the industry in 10 years?
I see local journalism as a niche but vital service to communities. We’ll be saturated with content from AI, but quality reporting will find new value in a sea of promotion and propaganda. In the same way that organic and responsible food sources have a found a loyal consumer base in a fast-food world, responsible journalism will be the diet of those who care about what information they consume.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Tampa Bay is a beautiful place with lots of entertainment options. Paddleboarding at the beach or in our natural springs is a great way to unwind. We have dynamic sports teams and some of the best downtowns (Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater) in the country. A day on the water followed by an evening meal watching the sunset is a perfect day for me.
What goal would you like to achieve?
I’ve been blessed with so many great mentors and coaches that have shaped my career and challenged me to grow. I hope to make that kind of impact on others from now until the day I retire.