CMNM chief to take the Swift helm
EAGLE COUNTY – Sometimes you get a hand up, sometimes you ascend.After more than a decade of growing to dominate the region’s media markets, Colorado Mountain News Media’s general manager, Bob Brown, has been wooed to the parent company’s central command, Swift Newspapers in Reno. Nev.Swift Newspaper owns Colorado Mountain News Media, the parent company of the Vaily Daily, Vail Trail and Eagle Valley Enterprise, among other Rocky Mountain publications. Swift’s Powers That Be liked his performance in this area so much that they’re moving him to their corporate offices in Reno, Nev., where he will be chief operating officer for the entire company.”It took 10 weeks to make the decision,” said Brown, an Edwards resident and former publisher of the Vail Daily. “It’s been tough to say good-bye.”The new guy
Brown came up on the retail side of the industry and didn’t have much newspaper experience when he landed in Vail in 1993 as the new publisher of the Vail Daily. But he learned fast. He immediately established a precedent for putting people in charge of themselves. When a star reporter complained the Vail editor wouldn’t let him make thousands of dollars by going trekking in South America and writing about it, Brown calmly replied the writer needed to decide whether he wanted to be a freelancer or a reporter.As the new publisher, Brown quickly learned that certain, formerly-accepted behaviors weren’t part of producing a strong daily news product – Like borderline felonious hijinx at company parties; like the time the Summit Daily News general manager wandered into the newsroom carrying a case of beer like a silver serving tray and hollering, “FAC!” OrThen there was the time a pressman, faced with a blank page, grabbed a Vail Resorts ad to fill it. Good client, the pressman thought at the time. Let’s give them a break. The ad, though, offered $27 lift tickets. The mistake cost the Vail Daily tens of thousands of dollars.Or how about the time a Vail editor called a local developer a “criminal?””I heard from three attorneys before the editor showed up for work,” said Brown, now laughing at the episode.
Market shareEventually, things settled down. Brown convinced Swift to buy the struggling Aspen Times. The Aspen offices were home to not only the staff, but also six cats and 18 dogs. Brown decided that wholesale changes were not necessary, and offered encouragement and resources – not always in that order. The Aspen Times now dominates that market. The dogs and cats are still there.Brown decided early that each community has its own personality, and needs its own voice.”People typically always smile at some point when they were reading the Vail Daily or the Summit Daily News,” said Brown.The newspapers, especially Summit and Vail, started light and breezy, and have developed into more sophisticated news products.
“We’ve struck a balance,” said Brown. “We cannot overlook the entertainment factor. We’re competing for people’s time.”Under Brown, Colorado Mountain News Media has come to dominate some of country’s the most lucrative resort markets. They own almost every newspaper in five counties, built a new building for the Vail Daily in Eagle-Vail, bought and renovated a building in Summit County, and in Gypsum built one of the region’s foremost printing facilities. These days, six daily newspapers are printed from there, along with a dozen or so weeklies and scores of other jobs.Vail and the other Colorado Mountain News Media papers now boast 90 percent market penetration.”Swift newspapers have been very successful; no other company in the country can claim those kinds of numbers,” said Brown. “We see that success here, and we want to extend it to other areas.”It’s a changing time of consumer expectations,” Brown added. “If I say ‘Vail Daily,’ people think it’s their newspaper. We want to elevate all our newspapers to that level.”Vail, Colorado