This issue, “10 Questions” checked in with Matt Sandberg, Director of Marketing and Innovation at Swift Communications, Inc. since April 2015.
He started at Swift subsidiary Colorado Mountain News Media in 2003 as an advertising sales consultant, sales manager, then advertising director at the Summit Daily News. He became director of sales for SDN and the Vail Daily in March 2009, and publisher of SDN a year later.
Most recently Matt was publisher of the Summit Daily News, Summit County Journal, Middle Park Times and Sky-Hi News, plus seasonal weeklies and magazines, overseeing Colorado Mountain News Media operations in Summit and Grand counties.
He and his wife, Shannon, two daughters, Madison and Sarah, and Apollo, a Bernese Mountain Dog, enjoy a wide variety of seasonal hobbies and sports in the Rocky Mountain region.
1 – Where were you born and grew up, what led to beginning your career as a newspaper carrier for the Ft. Collins Coloradoan?
I was born in Scottsbluff, Neb., and lived on a farm until I was 12, when we moved to Fort Collins. My entry into the newspaper industry as a carrier happened due to a unique circumstance.
My next-door neighbor’s house burned down, and the family was forced to move into temporary housing for about a year. I took over the route of the kid next door when they were forced to move. I enjoyed getting out early every day and delivering the papers, and getting a jump on the news even as a teenager.
2 –You studied marketing and journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, then visual communications at Westwood College of Technology. Were you exploring your options, or aiming to blend various disciplines into a well-rounded background?
I think exploring my options would be an appropriate description. I wrote for my high-school newspaper, which led to my initial studies at Nebraska. I soon learned that my skills were better aligned with marketing versus becoming a reporter/writer.
I missed Colorado so I moved back and began pursuing studies in video and website production because at the time independent films about snowboarding were blowing up. I intended to pursue my career in this field but found myself back in the newspaper industry. Looking back, my unique path certainly has provided me a well-rounded background, but it was not designed that way.
3 – You’re now involved in a complex, comprehensive marketing and sales network in a unique area of the state. What are the challenges of sales and marketing in your mountain communities?
We face many of the same challenges as others in the industry, but certainly our markets add unique challenges.
Tourism is typically the largest economic driver in our communities, and with that we have a diverse target audience: locals, second homeowners, visitors. Our free distribution products deliver exceptional reach to these groups while they are in-market. Our challenge is to continue to be relevant to our local audience while competing online with news and content that is of interest to the visitor audience.
Our digital products also have great reach to our visitor audience, but local business owners still see us as a newspaper company and value our in-market reach, and have not fully embraced the audience we can deliver out-of-market through our digital portfolio.
4 – Newsrooms are undergoing changes, with influences coming from the areas of social media, video/virtual reality, even a new emphasis on in-depth enterprise reporting. How has all this affected advertising and marketing concepts and plans?
All of the formats you listed are digital formats, perhaps with the exception of in-depth enterprise reporting, which still has print roots.
Technology with these formats is changing daily but at the foundation is the ability to access data and deliver incredibly targeted messages to targeted audiences. Digital audience and revenue growth is coming from programs focused on delivering comprehensive value to a targeted audience.
Even within print products to the most successful programs we have developed we have delivered news content to a targeted audience, and the ad placements on those pages align with the audience.
5 – How did you become a director on the Colorado Press Association board of directors, and what projects are you most involved with, as far as committee work or other areas?
In February 2015 there was an opening on the board so I decided to put my hat in the ring. Prior to this I had worked with CPA and the Legislative Committee.
My focus during that time was representing our newspaper group, which is composed of free-distribution newspapers. While our operations produced subscription-based, legal newspapers of record in our communities, these papers were overshadowed by our daily, free papers.
In the eyes of the CPA our legal papers were primary members and we received associate memberships for our daily newspapers. I was proud to be involved in the change to membership criteria this past year that now allows our free, daily newspapers to stand as primary members of the association. Moving forward I will become involved with the SYNC2 Media board with focus on marketing.
6 – Your LinkedIn profile says you’re a Certified Scrum Product Owner, linked to Scrum Alliance. This has to do with workplace practices, but how do you explain what it is, and how you use it?
I lead marketing and innovation efforts for Swift Communications, and identifying a process that allows us to rapidly innovate has been a key component of those efforts.
My team is using the agile development method, and more specifically the scrum framework to manage these efforts. When my team is working on a new project or product development I become the product owner for development. We create a backlog of features that our product should do for our user group, and then within that backlog create user stories and prioritize these in the development queue.
From there we have “sprints” that are typically two to three weeks in duration where we identify which user stories we can develop during that timeframe. The scrum framework means our cross-functional team works as a unit to move through the sprint, whereas other development frameworks such as a waterfall approach have more of an assembly line process: one person working on the item before passing it to the next person.
7 – That profile also lists you as marketing chair on the board of directors for Rotary Club of Summit County. What are the personal rewards, and in what ways has the club benefitted the community?
Our local Rotary Club is a tremendous asset to our community. I have been part of the literacy committee since I joined the organization, and the personal reward is helping efforts within our community to increase literacy within the school district.
I was recently appointed to the marketing chair and my goal is to streamline how we promote the great things Rotary is doing within our community by developing a comprehensive annual marketing plan.
In the past a lot of Rotary marketing has been focused more on volunteering opportunities and fundraisers the organization has put on. My goal is to focus more on the outcomes of those efforts, the positive impact within the community and use that as a vehicle to ask for volunteer time and donations.
8 – Can you name your top three mentors, in or out of journalism, and how they influenced you?
Of course, my parents. They have instilled in me great work ethic, loyalty and encouraged me to take risks.
My wife has always been there for me and has always been my encouragement and motivation. As a mentor she continues to inspire and teach me how to be a better parent.
Within the industry it is the bosses I have worked for, Jim Morgan and Bob Brown, who have taught me more about myself, how to be a leader, and everything I have learned about the industry.
9 – What do you do in your spare time and with your family?
As a family we do a lot of outdoor activities, such as camping, hiking, skiing, snowmobiling, ATV’s, dance parties, traveling, etc. I have season tickets to the Denver Broncos so you can always catch me at a game, and occasionally I golf but summer is so short that golfing gets squeezed by other activities.
10 – Neat desk or office, or not, and what would we see there?
More neat than not, but I am by no means a neat freak. I would say my office is tidy and mostly organized. What you will see are family pictures, a few framed industry pieces, some fun gadgets, and a three-screen array for my computer.