Doug Phares

Former CEO and President, Sandusky Newspaper Group

Doug Phares stepped down in June 2019 as CEO and President of the Sandusky Newspaper Group, which significantly reduced its newspaper holdings. Phares is a former executive for Boone Newspapers and Copley Newspapers.


We’re on the edge of crisis. You know, quite realistically, any newspaper person that tells you they think they have a sustainable business is lying or whistling past the graveyard. There are no revenue trends that are positive if you’re not The New York Times. … We’re getting very, very close to the point where we don’t know what else we can jettison that won’t cause a big value loss and still produce something that’s relevant.

We tried the membership model and you know what? It just really, it didn’t pan out for us. And maybe our communities are smaller. Perhaps if you’re in a very, very large community you can get more traction with that. So no, we don’t see being a member of the newspaper as a driver. … Our membership would include, you know, that’s where you’d bundle all kinds of stuff together: access to events, premium content that perhaps is not available to others, special retail deals that you could have by being a member, discount cards. Just a bundle of things that you would get by being a member that transcend just the newspaper itself. Really in the end, people value the newspaper and we found that the other things every once in a while was a nice little additive, but it really was not a driver. People were not coming to us or staying with us because we offered that extra set of items.

I want to bang my head against the wall when people tell me that innovation’s going to make the difference. The innovation almost has to come from how people, the average consumer, accesses and processes information.

There’s some communities, the TV station is knocking it out of the ballpark. You know, we used to dog on them, but there’s some that are really doing a nice job and they’re actually creating a nice news ecosystem on their digital platforms.

The national evolution of newspapering and local news might come back to its roots. I think the weekly newspaper that serves not a huge area, our weeklies are still doing a pretty good job because they have all those overlaps and you’re able to hold together those communities in a way that the bigger and bigger you are, you’re losing them or they’re being picked off by silos.