As legacy news operations have shrunk, so have the conferences that bring journalists together to exchange ideas and discuss what’s new in the industry. Used to be I would build my yearly work and vacation calendar around the SPJ, ASNE, NAA, NABJ and NAHJ conferences. Not anymore. I stopped doing so years ago, as conference attendance began to dip as fast as circulation numbers.
But Inland keeps plugging along. The Chicago conference, with roughly 40 attendees from small to mid-sized publications, attracted an all-star lineup of speakers worthy of a conference 50 times the size (that's why you won't believe who was there). Among them (and I apologize upfront for those that I missed): Alan Mutter, the author of the widely respected Reflections of a Newsosaur; two social media experts at the top of their field, Shannon Kinney, the founder of Dream Local Digital, and Toby Bloomberg, the president of Bloomberg Marketing; Charles Laughlin, the senior vice president of BIA/Kelsey; Christy Oglesby, the Managing Editor for Engagement at Cox Media Group; Erin Dougherty Foley, a partner in Seyfarth Shaw; and Rich Forsgren, the chief technology officer at Times Publishing Company. (For the record, I spoke as well).
Among the subjects covered --- eight tech trends changing newsrooms; the content challenges publishers face in the digital world; how to use video to increase audience; new ways of showcasing content; a vendor showcase that highlighted some cutting edge digital work (I found Matt Voight’s Saambaa and Tony Wills’ Local Yield Mo presentations fascinating); and much more.
Inland (and its partner, the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association) are filling a huge void in the industry by providing valuable low-cost training and conferences to its members. And it bears repeating --- Inland brings in speakers who are the top of their game, speakers who could demand fees just for showing up, but don’t. That’s a testament to Patty Slusher, Karla Zander, Mark Fitzgerald and the rest of the Inland staffers who have built strong connections throughout the industry and have a wealth of experts they can call on to help educate their members.
Inland, SNPA, and other small associations are showing that you can help your members thrive during tough industry times. They’re not flashy, and that’s a real good thing. They just do good work, and it would behoove publishers to support them.
Why? We all know associations are in trouble. Dues and memberships are often the first budget items slashed, and even if they’re not, there’s no travel budget to pay for transportation and hotel (often the most expensive parts of any conference).
But staying away falls under the penny (un)wise, pound foolish. Yeah, it costs to attend, but you’ll learn more in two days that you will all year. And really, it’s incredibly economical. You can’t get all of these experts in one place and have a chance to pick their brains. Yeah, you can save a few pennies now, but that won’t help you in the long run.
You can get more information about Inland and SNPA at: