Jennifer Bertetto began her career in news media at age 16, working as the nighttime sports agate clerk at a local Pennsylvania newspaper owned by the company that became Trib Total Media. Upon graduating from college, her sports editor suggested that Jennifer apply for a sales position at the company. Jennifer says it’s the best piece of advice she’s ever received and one of the best decisions she’s ever made. Twenty-five years later, she’s now president and CEO of Trib Total Media and 535media, the company’s digital marketing agency.
Jennifer shares how her company has invested in technology including AI, what advice she has for someone starting out in her field and what she’s most proud of in her career.
How did you choose your career?
I think my career chose me. I didn’t graduate from college hoping to land a sales position, but from my first day on the job, it felt like home. I enjoyed the fast-paced environment, the mission, the co-workers, and my bosses. I really couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. Our company was growing exponentially then, so it didn’t take long to get major account sales and management opportunities. Because I have always felt challenged by the work, I never thought of doing anything else.
Anything about the industry that’s surprised you?
The opportunity to innovate has always been appealing to me, but I was surprised to find that opportunity in our industry. I think this is the most exciting time in our industry’s history to be a part of the work we are doing. At this moment, the industry needs bright and passionate people to help us find our path toward a sustainable business model for generations to come. The number of vendors, individuals, companies and foundations working on long-term solutions for our industry is truly inspiring.
Can you share an initiative that helped your company innovate?
We have made several investments in technology companies that serve the industry and have explored several new areas including e-commerce, digital audio, and e-sports. However, our biggest innovation effort has been to use artificial intelligence to create hyper-local, automated websites for our Neighborhood News Network, as well as to provide personalized news experiences. We partnered with an AI technology company to start a joint venture called MeSearch Media Technologies which built an AI platform upon which we run search, personalized news widgets and TribLIVE Local. We are currently exploring partnerships to expand this platform across the publishing industry and hope to see a day when it provides a basis for publishers to compete worldwide in both targeted display and search advertising.
What excites you about your role?
No two days are ever the same. The pace is breakneck. I enjoy jumping from editorial to sales to logistics to artificial intelligence, sometimes all within the same hour.
What word describes your organization?
How has AAM supported your company?
AAM continues to evolve with the industry. From coupon audits to the Digital Publisher Audit, AAM has been at the forefront of connecting media companies and advertisers. Having a partner that continues to evolve with us is rare. That is why we have partnered with AAM for more than 70 years.
What in your career are you most proud of?
When I took over as president and CEO of our company, we looked a lot different. We were a much bigger organization, but we had significant losses. We had two years of money left to underwrite the losses, so without fundamental change, we were poised to close our doors in 24 months, which would have been May 2017. Our team worked incredibly hard and made gut-wrenching decisions, but we did so to preserve local journalism in our communities and jobs for our employees. We did what was difficult. What we did hurt. But sitting here in 2023, there is no doubt we made the right decisions. We continue to publish seven days a week and have even added jobs this year.
What advice would you give someone starting in your field?
Change is difficult for everyone, but if you want to be successful in this business, you will need to be comfortable with it, and even beyond being comfortable, you will need to embrace it. Coming into the industry, you will have the amazing opportunity to bring a fresh perspective but understand that many who are already established are going through the toughest part of the industry transition. People in the industry need to accept that new ideas and technology will drive the present and future business models.
Where do you see the industry in 10 years?
I think we will look a lot different. I would expect most print publications to be either weekly or non-existent. In the next ten years, most news outlets will move entirely to a digital format. We will need all hands on deck to find a way to fund our companies on digital-only revenue. This is the challenge. The current metrics don’t show a path forward for robust news organizations, so we must be incredibly creative and innovative to find new revenue streams to fund our work.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I am happily married to my husband of 24 years, Keith. We like to go to concerts and check out Broadway shows. We are avid animal lovers and enjoy spending time with our five cats. I am a Peloton addict and enjoy working out daily on my bike or their app. I also volunteer with many organizations such as the National Aviary, Westminster College and the University of Pittsburgh.
What goal would you like to achieve?
I hope to make Trib Total Media a sustainable media company for generations to come.