"I did not ever decide to get into publishing. It decided to pick me." As the Group Publisher of Voice Media Group which produces LA Weekly, the largest weekly newspaper in the United States, Beth Sestanovich makes working in publishing look like a piece of cake. (And she is a shoe queen too, with a collection that makes my own look small in comparison!) But with online media continually on the rise, the profession is changing every day and today I got the chance to sit down with Beth to discuss why print media isn't dead, what happens when you have to downsize a business, and why her work team is like a second family to her.
Hillary Gadsby: How did you decide you wanted to get into publishing?
Beth Sestanovich: I worked for IBM after I graduated from UCLA and I managed the LA Times/Times Mirror national account. During the years doing that, I met the President of the LA Times. After working closely with him for several years, he asked me to come work for him and learn the business. I spent 18 months working directly for him on all kinds of special projects and sitting in on all the strategic planning and decision-making meetings for the paper. After that, I went out into my first of many management jobs at the Times. And that’s how I ended up getting into publishing - I really was an accidental tourist!
HG: What are your duties as the Group Publisher for Voice Media Group?
BS: As Group Publisher, I am responsible for the LA Weekly and OC Weekly. I handle all day-to-day operations of the LA Weekly, which is the largest weekly newspaper in the United States. I have P&L responsibility and it’s my job to maximize the profitability of the paper for the holding company. I also manage the OC Weekly’s P&L.
HG: What motivates and drives you about working in publishing?
BS: I am motivated by the love of people that I work with. I have an outstanding team of people that feel like they are part of my family. It’s a sense of duty and responsibility to them that keeps me coming in every day and doing my best. The media business is changing and the ground is shifting beneath us and I want to be part of changing the company to adapt to the shifting landscape.
HG: Where do you see the future of media, both online and print, heading?
BS: That’s a big question! The future of media is no different than the past has been. The future of media is all about content. Content is KING. You need to have quality and meaningful content that’s useful to consumers and respected by advertisers. And then you need to package that content appropriately for whatever distribution medium you are presenting it on. And finally and most importantly, you need to monetize that content so you can afford to keep producing it. Print is NOT dead. While online media is still growing at double-digit percentages, print is still alive and well for the right content and niche.
HG: What is the worst thing that ever happened to you in business and how did you overcome it?
BS: I think the worst thing I’ve had to face is downsizing the business in 2008/2009 when the economy collapsed and I needed to retool the business so that it could survive profitably. I overcame it by making the hard decisions to lay people off and to cut expenses drastically and then to explain to the surviving team why I needed to do what I did. It was a tough and sobering time.
HG: Fill in the blank: my favorite shoes are a pair of _____ because ________.
BS: A pair of platform stilettos because they are sexy and they make me 5 inches taller than I am!
HG: What 3 things are you most passionate about and why?
BS: Also a tough question. I’m passionate about my daughters and my friends. Life is all about relationships and the people you let into your heart who support you and love you. I love them back fiercely. I’m passionate about my sense of adventure. I love to challenge myself and try new things. I’m very competitive and much of what I do supports my need for competition and winning. And I’m passionate about travelling. I have been all over the world and have barely scratched the surface of where I want to still go! I love seeing new places, new cultures and meeting new people.