John Garrett, CEO and founder of Community Impact, shares insights from his journey of launching and expanding a family of hyperlocal weekly newspapers from the game room of his Texas home in 2005 to reaching 2.5 million homes across 70 communities today. Garrett delves into the unconventional success of a print-centric model in a digital-dominated era, emphasizing the importance of distribution, community engagement, and the unique editorial mix that caters to the civic and local business news interests of residents.

Garrett also discusses the challenges and learnings from overexpansion into other states and the strategic decision to refocus on Texas, underscoring the resilience and adaptability required in the evolving news industry. He highlights the innovative approaches Community Impact has adopted, including digital transformation initiatives like CI 360 and the use of Smart Brevity to enhance storytelling and reader engagement.

Garrett emphasizes on the critical role of local advertising in sustaining journalism, advocating for a partnership approach with local businesses and the significance of geography in advertising effectiveness. He shares personal reflections on leadership, the impact of taking a sabbatical for mental health, and the vision for Community Impact's future, including aspirations for generational leadership and expansion within Texas. Garrett's story is a testament to the enduring value of local news and the potential for print media to thrive through innovation, community focus, and a deep commitment to journalistic integrity.

Episode chapters:
(02:06) – A print success story in the digital age
(05:20) – An editorial mix of catnip and civic info for every resident
(10:29) – Don’t ignore Main Street
(15:08) – Committing to showing up
(19:55) – Why print is a driving force for Community Impact
(23:40) – Not abandoning reach and advertising for reader revenue
(26:46) – Keys to driving ad sales
(29:57) – Geography is your great advantage with an advertiser
(33:50) – Digital transformation at CI
(35:36) – Overexpansion followed by retraction to focus on Texas
(40:45) – Burnout among leaders
(43:46) – Recent growth and plans for the future
(46:59) – Rapid-fire questions

Listen to the episode here:

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Bio:

John GarrettJohn Garrett started Community Impact Newspaper from the game room of his home with his wife and best friend, Jennifer. The belief that everyone—not just the insiders—should know what is happening in their own backyard prompted him to leave news company giants and start his own news organization. John and Jennifer launched the first edition of CI in 2005 with the Round Rock/Pflugerville paper.

Growing up with parents who worked hard as small-business owners gave John a deep appreciation of how Main Street is the community. Helping local businesses thrive isn’t just part of CI‘s mission statement—it’s in the company’s DNA. John is vested in his community, and he encourages his employees to be involved as well. He aims to set an example by serving on local community boards and nonprofit organizations.

John is the first to devote his time and energy to strengthen and transform the company. He has been named Best CEO by the Austin Business Journal and a Distinguished Young Alumnus by Sam Houston State University. He also won the KPMG Executive Leadership Award from the Austin Chamber of Commerce, among other accolades. John and Jennifer live in Round Rock and have three daughters.

Full transcript:

(recorded via Riverside.fm; transcript automated via Castmagic.io, mostly unedited)

John Garrett [00:00:00]:I feel like so many times in our industry, this is where I can get off track a bit, but we're just following, like, the new innovative thing and, like, the guy's running off the cliff, but we're just, like, follow him or shift to digital, shift—I mean, all the stuff that we've done in our industry, we've just got, you know, oh, that must be the new thing. Let's go. You know? And I I think that the math is important, and the math of the printed product really works well for us. 

Tim Regan-Porter [00:00:31]: Welcome to the Local News Matters podcast, where we explore pathways to stronger journalism, better businesses, and healthier communities. I'm Tim Regan-Porter, CEO of the Colorado Press Association. In each episode, I sit down with guests from newsrooms and others in the local news ecosystem to highlight the innovative work of local newsrooms and those that support them, as well as the crucial questions they face.  

This episode I talk to John Garrett, the CEO and founder of Community Impact, a family of hyperlocal weekly newspapers that’s been one the standout print success stories in the industry. John launched Community Impact from the gameroom in his Texas home in 2005 and it now reaches 2.5 million homes across 70 communities with over 40 editions. There is a lot to learn from their success, as well as their retrenchment from expanding into other states. 

John was previously advertising director at the Austin Business Journal and account executive at the Houston Chronicle. He has been named Best CEO by the Austin Business Journal and won the KPMG Executive Leadership Award from the Austin Chamber of Commerce, among other accolades.  He has a BFA in Radio/Television from Sam Houston State University and lives in Round Rock, Texas with his wife and three daughters. 

Regan-Porter [00:01:32]: If you like this episode and what we're doing more generally, please follow in your favorite podcast app. Leave us a 5-star review on Apple Podcasts and tell your friends about us. This is a side project and a labor of love, and your support means a lot. You can find past episodes, full transcripts, and relevant links, and sign up for our newsletter at local news matters podcast dotcom or for lazy typist like me at lnmpod.com. You can also follow us on most social media channels at lnmpod.  

And now I bring you John Garrett of Community Impact. 

Welcome, John. It's great to have you on the podcast. 

Garrett [00:02:04]: Yeah. Thanks for inviting me, Tim. I appreciate it. 

A print success story in the digital age 

Regan-Porter [00:02:06]: Yeah. So I've had you actually had you on the list of someone I wanted to talk to for a while, because I've used you and I have not met or talked before, but have actually used Community Impact as an example with numerous publishers over the years as a as a company they should look to for ideas and what what can actually work. I got to know some of your team. I met them at an ONA sponsor party maybe five, six years ago, and, they were telling me about the growth of your print product, which caught my attention, and how it's organized and how you distribute it and the surveys and the reader feedback you're getting and how the editorial teams work and the business success. And I just thought it was fascinating. There was an article about a year ago, not quite a year ago, in Texas Monthly on you and Community Impact. And one of the phrases that stuck out to me that was actually why your team had caught my attention at ONA, “In defiance of almost every trend in print media in recent decades, you've been growing while local newspapers have been closing at a rate about two per week.” And so that alone makes you stand out and makes you worth talking to, so I'm eager to dig into it. 

Garrett [00:03:22]: Thanks. That's very nice. I think we've had—we've grown, but we've also had yeah. It's a tough business, so a lot of lessons learned as well. 

Regan-Porter [00:03:21]: You've expanded and contracted, and so we'll get into that as well for sure. So why don't you start by just give me a little description of Community Impact and the number of communities you're in and editions and readers and all of that. 

Garrett [00:03:42]: Yeah. Sure. Today, we have 41 editions. We're in over 70 communities around Texas. Our total print circulation is a free monthly print product that we mail to all of the residents in the areas that we serve. It's about 2.5 million a month. We also have a daily email product that's really come on strong as many of our peers in our industry have seen. We're doing about 150,000 a day, uniques around Texas, on the email side. 

Garrett [00:04:12]: And then, yeah, we're a—our focus is kind of a little bit different than a traditional community newspaper and that we wanna cover city government really well. We wanna cover transportation and local business really well. We cover school districts, like, the business of school districts, like, how are they performing, any big news that they're, any big stuff that they're doing. But we try to stay out of the school sports and kind of the day to day school operations like chess team and debate teams and that kind of thing, that traditional community newspapers are used to kinda covering. So that's a little bit about kind of our product. You know, we started back in 2005, gameroom of the house type of story, borrowed $39,000 of debt on my Southwest Airlines credit card. That's kind of the origin story. And we don't have any outside investors still. 

Garrett [00:05:01]: Jennifer and I, my wife and I, own the company and we're really grateful for that. It's really helped us as, you know, as the things have gotten good and also things have gone bad, it's nice to be privately held and without kind of the investors or the boards kinda telling you, hey. You need to do this. So that's been helpful. 

An editorial mix of catnip and civic info for every resident 

Regan-Porter [00:05:20]: And so there's a lot I wanna dig into. I mean, the print component and the growth you've had there and sort of the business model. But first, let's talk a little bit about the editorial focus and structure. So you talked about covering, you know, some of the civic news you cover and the focus on government and that sort of thing. And, you know, I remember talking to some of your team at 0NA, and they were talking about the reader surveys and the feedback you got on what people really valued and what they read. And I think in the past decade or so, particularly in large metro dailies, they've tended to downplay that kind of content. And, you know, as journalists will always say it's important, but then somebody who's in charge of traffic will say, well, people—nobody's reading it. But you're finding it very successful, and you're getting strong feedback. 

Regan-Porter [00:06:10]: So why focus on the boring stuff? 

Garrett [00:06:09]: Well, we kinda kinda, we call it kinda like catnip. Right? So we catnip our readers into the fun stuff. Like, so they really love, obviously, restaurants opening or businesses opening around them. And we use really great maps and graphics to kinda draw them in. And then we're hitting them with, hey, the city's raising your taxes to x y z in the news kinda meaty stuff. And so, it's this really interesting blend of, like, not getting not preaching at people about, like, hey, you need to be more civically minded. And instead of approaching it more, I think in a more modern way, right, where it's like, hey, this is fun stuff over here. This is, I mean, I don't know how fun transportation updates are, but people love transportation updates. 

Garrett [00:06:56]: So we do like, hey, these are the road construction updates around you. They love that stuff. It's like the catnip, like I said, but then it's like, hey, you should be paying attention to this as well. And so, you know, I think that that's kind of been our approach. And it's worked. I mean, we—people don't, if you don't get a Community Impact, like, people don't really understand how good of a job we're doing of reaching the average resident that's not a typical news consumer, but it is a model where others could look at it and say, okay. If you really were committed to reaching every resident regardless of your socioeconomic status, then this a model that might be able to pull it off. Because our—the reader numbers that aren't—it's not our data, 

Garrett [00:07:39]: it's city provided data—are off the charts. Like, 70 to 80% of a community say that they get their information about the city from Community Impact. And it's like, second place isn't even close. So that's kind of the proof that's there, but we have to fund it. You know, and how do you fund it? That's also kind of how we're different in the industry. And I think it's important, you know, for the news ecosystem as it continues to evolve into more of an entrepreneurial news ecosystem. I hope that I can be helpful to help some of these entrepreneurs understand the business side and how important it is and maybe how they can approach the business side so that they can have a sustaining model. And so that's kind of what we do. 

Garrett [00:08:22]: We work really hard. We were about, I think, last year, 2023, we're ending just under $33 million and it's all, almost all, ad revenue. We do have some reader revenue, but it's not a big number. And I think that's one thing we're really good at is getting local businesses to support our product through advertising. 

Regan-Porter [00:08:42]: And I wanna dig a lot into that. Before we do that, though, I wanna emphasize something you talked about with the surveys. One of the surveys, the Texas Monthly piece highlighted was in Round Rock. And as you alluded to, you know, 77% of respondents said that it was their top source of news and information. And this isn't a city, you know, there you have competitors. There are news outlets, and it's not even close. I mean, I think they were in, like, the 15% range. So that's significant. 

Regan-Porter [00:09:09]: And it's not, this isn't just web traffic. This is a brand awareness thing too. Right? When they think of their local news, they think of you. You're top of mind for them. 

Garrett [00:09:19]: It's really crazy. And I think what just anecdotally, like, outside the data side, you know, I'll run into people. Like, I was with this guy. And these are, like, young tech professionals. You know, Round Rock's a tech city. It's not a farm community. It's home of Dell Computer Corporation. Right? But I'll run into these 30-something-year-old tech folks, and they will say that is the only thing I read. 

Garrett [00:09:44]: I get it in the mailbox. I mean, they sometimes when they find out that my wife and I own it, they treat us in a weird celebrity way. And we don't do it—you know, our my name's not on it. Like, that was very intentional. It's called Community Impact, not John Garrett News. I didn't wanna build a Bloomberg-type reputation. I really wanted something that was intentionally about the fact that we have beautiful, diverse communities, and everybody in those communities deserves to know this information. 

Garrett [00:10:13]: So that was the intent from the very beginning. And I think I mean, my faith is a big part of who I am, you know, so you'll see hear me say things like this. But by the grace of God, I think, for whatever reason, when the paper shows up in people's mailboxes, they really like it. And, yeah, I'm grateful for that. 

Don’t ignore Main Street 

Regan-Porter [00:10:29]: And that editorial mix is obviously the core of that, in terms of what people are responding to. And, you know, I think a lot of journalists relate to that. That's what I think journalists would love to focus more on those types of stories and that mix of catnip and broccoli maybe. And we I think we hear readers say they want that all the time, but then we also see what they click on. Right? But you're not doing the Florida-man story or the Texas equivalent of that. You're not doing the car crashes and the crime stories. 

Garrett [00:11:01]: Yeah. I mean, here's the cool part of it. Like, I believe to have a healthy community, you need a couple of things. You need a healthy local business environment. You don't want Amazon to win. I'm sorry. You don't want the big boxes to always win. They help. 

Garrett [00:11:15]: You know, they're not bad, but, like, you want main street businesses to win. And, also, what you need for a healthy community is, I think, a strong local news source that's kinda connecting the dots. That's showing up to city council meetings, and that's helping make sure that there's some accountability about where those tax dollars are going and what the decision makers are deciding about. Right? So if you need those two things, the journalists who really get that second one going. Like, they love the idea that our role is to show up to city council meetings and be eyes and ears for the everyday taxpayer. They love that. Right? The piece I think that sometimes they miss is how important that Main Street success is. And what's cool about our approach is that most journalists will actually buy into that. Like, they get it. 

Garrett [00:12:00]: Like, yeah, I'd rather, like, this coffee shop win than maybe Starbucks. Right? And so how do you use your editorial chops, right? To connect those dots to the reader that really wants—the reader wants to know that information too, by the way. The reader wants to shop local. Right? So, you know, connecting the dots for the good of the community from an editorial standpoint without it being a paid thing. Right? Like, you're just writing about the coffee shop because you want them to be successful is not paid. Right? Getting that editorial folks to, like, get around that and then adding the layer of sponsored content on top of that for a way to drive revenue to do all that kind of stuff, I think that's where we're going. And I think journalists, especially those who are starting new publications or new digital outlets, I think that they're gonna be really good at it if they're open to this idea of, like, serving the local business scene as well, like, showing up to Chamber of Commerce luncheons. Right? Not to cover them. 

Garrett [00:12:57]: I mean, but to actually make friends with the people that are business leaders that care about the future, the success of that community, and still do it with integrity. Right? Like, I think that that's the future, and I I see it starting to happen. And I I love it. 

Regan-Porter [00:13:12]: Talk a little bit about your staffing overall and your editorial structure, because, you know, you've got all of these different editions. How do you cover so many hyperlocal communities with the staff you've got, which is not small, but not—you're still lean, I would say, from what I've seen. 

Garrett [00:13:28]: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think our editorial team is probably about, like, 70 or so, across the state. So it's a significant newsroom, especially when you're thinking about, like, showing up to Katy, Frisco, Plano, Cedar Park, like, all these city council meetings. So we're actually, we did a little bit of transformation last year on the news side, and we're still you know, if I'm just being honest, like, we're still struggling through a little bit of the core changes, but our team's on it. Like, we have an incredible editorial leadership team. They're very dedicated to what we're trying to do. So we kind of—we used to be structured that where our reporters and editors were very geo-centric, so they were focused on a certain community. 

Garrett [00:14:13]: Well, then we, one of the problems with that is that you lose a little bit of the knowledge base that comes with having more beat reporter type strategies. So we've kind of like we're trying to blend those two strategies right now. And, you know, honestly, like, we got a lot of work to do, but we're working on it. Where, you know, you would have government reporters that might instead of just focusing on Round Rock, they might do that might focus on Round Rock and a neighboring community as well. But they're focused on government. They're not focused on local business. They're not focused on transportation. So we're trying to, like, what we're trying to, I guess, manage the tension between getting people to be more focused on, like, education and transportation and government, being better at that, but still being hyperlocal. And I think that that's a challenge for us in 2024 that we're gonna that we're tackling, that our editorial leadership's tackling, and we're gonna pull it off. 

Garrett [00:15:03]: It's just, it's different, and it is hard. You know, it's not easy. 

Committing to showing up 

Regan-Porter [00:15:08]: Well and how are your editorial teams able to cover, you know, go to all of these meetings and cover it. You know, being a monthly is helpful for sure, but you're also. you know, you are pushing things to the web, and you've got your newsletters. So how do you balance sort of feeding the daily beast and taking time for, you know, going to those chamber meetings that might not result in a story or just attending all of these different city councils and school boards and that sort of thing? 

Garrett [00:15:37]: The way we're able to do that is I think it starts with a commitment to doing it. Like, when I heard from one city manager that we—they hadn't seen a reporter in a couple of meetings, that bothered me. But what's great is it bothered our leadership team too. And so first of all, it starts with the understanding that our mission is to show up. Like, we gotta be there. And so then if your team if your editorial team says, well, I don't have enough resources to go to all these meetings, then hopefully as a leadership team, you know, you're listening and you're addressing those needs and you're saying, okay, maybe stop doing this and do this instead, or maybe we need to hire more team members. Right? That's kind of the tension that you got about managing. I'm honestly in the middle of that right now to make sure that we still have that commitment. 

Garrett [00:16:24]: So it, there is a schedule. Right? These cities meet at different times. You are able to schedule those based on resources that you have. And you just wanna know how many city meetings do we have in Austin, of all the communities we serve? That might be a total of 45. Right. And are we able to send a report to all 45 of those meetings or not? And our commitment is to be there. So if we're not able to hit those numbers, then we need to really ask the reporters, like, hey, what are you doing? I need to take off your plate so that you can go do that. And I think that that's what we do really well here. 

Garrett [00:17:00]: We are really good operators, and we really know what our role is, and we wanna make sure that we're doing what we do. And we're innovative, so—but if you innovate, you gotta add resources to, you know, to the newsletter team, for example. So those are the things that we think about. And you know, Tim, like, being privately held helps a lot. Like, I don't have to go to a board. I don't have to go to a—I don't have private equity people that are asking me what's my margin this month. You know? Jennifer, my wife, and I are able to say, like, no. We're willing to lose money this month to invest in these things, and we can do that. 

Garrett [00:17:37]: So that's kind of our approach. And we've reached enough scale now where we do our, you know, it's 18 years of doing this. So we've reached enough scale that we're able to do things that others can't because of that. And I'm grateful for that, you know, that we're able to make those kind of decisions, and I wanna do the right thing. 

Regan-Porter [00:17:57]: Yeah. And maybe the last editorial focus question for a little bit before we dig into the business, but how you have that commitment to showing up. But I, you know, just based purely on the reader reaction to what you're doing, you're not just doing a tick-tock and, you know, being stenographers. Here's so you're also providing some value. So how do you, how do you think about that from an editorial standpoint of you're going to meetings, you wanna say what happened, but what you really wanna do is tell people what they need to know and what the impact is. 

Garrett [00:18:29]: Yeah. I mean, I think we—what we've, we did study Smart Brevity, and I think we've done some transformation about how we're telling stories based on that kind of model. And I know there's there's good debate about what does that mean for longform journalism, all that kind of stuff. Like, I get that. And some of our staff, they like to write. So there's a balance that we're trying to figure out there. But, yeah, I mean, I think the thing I like about what Smart Brevity did is, there's a difference between being shallow and still being, having depth. Right? Like, simple does not mean shot shallow. 

Garrett [00:19:05]: You know, you can be simple and still have depth. It's actually really hard. It's like a new muscle you gotta to grow in. So, and not everyone can do it yet. So you gotta train people, like, because it—on the on the surface, it looks like you're just trying to dumb it down. That's not what the heart of Smart Brevity is. Right? The heart of Smart Brevity is to actually appreciate people's time and give them what they want. And then if they want more, they're able to dig in to go deeper. 

Garrett [00:19:32]: Right? So we've kind of, like, taken that as a model and are trying to use that model to say, hey. Like, what's important? We call it, you know, the immediate impacts. Like, we kinda created our own, you know, they had Axioms. We kinda created our own things, and we call them Impactisms to try to get to those questions, like, why do you need to know this, and why is it important? And, but still being, you know, solid. 

Why print is a driving force for Community Impact 

Regan-Porter [00:19:55]: And just for listeners who don't know, Spark Brevity came from out of Axios, and there's a book. They've got a great tool set for other publishers to use, and, you know, I love their newsletters and their approach. But yeah. So let's dig a little bit into the business model. So you've been doing this for 18 years. And even when you started, everybody knew where the industry was heading in terms of the Internet. Certainly, by now, everyone knows that, but you're still really—print is the core of your business, and we'll get into digital evolution a little bit later. But why is print the focus, and how has it benefited you? 

Garrett [00:20:31]: I go back to that whole idea of where, like, you know, the idea for if somebody cuts down a tree in a forest and it falls, but no one's there, do they hear a sound? And I kind of apply that to our business. You know, you can write the best story ever, but if no one actually reads it, like, does it make the sound that it deserves to make in the community? And so the one way that you can really make sure that the sound is heard is through distribution. And so you tell me, like, what in the last 20 years before the email newsletter revolution, which is a huge new opportunity for all of us on distribution, How do we distribute content? Google and Facebook and everybody else owned the distribution of that content. That's really what happened. And so for us, it was simple. Like, if we really wanted to make an impact in the community that we serve, you gotta distribute it. You gotta mail it out. The best way to distribute it is a physical product. 

Garrett [00:21:24]: And so for us, it was kind of like, well, if I—because I did the work like at the Business Journal newsletters. I mean, sorry, subscriptions at the time were really hard, to get very expensive. I knew we gotta just—we just need to, like, do good work and just send it to everybody. And if we did that, would people read it? And the answer to that is yes. And if they read it, will advertisers support it? And the answer to that is yes. Okay? And so that's kind of the—to me, it's very simple. I think sometimes we get into the strategic, you know, innovative realm too much, and we're not thinking. And we're not actually looking at—our industry doesn't actually look at the data all the time. Like, The New York Times, 40% of their revenue is print today. Like they're not talking, like a lot of the industry, where they're saying we're getting rid of print. 

Garrett [00:22:15]: In fact, they're being very careful because their last quarter showed a print advertising increase year-over-year. So like, I don't know. I feel like so many times in our industry, this is where I can get off track a bit, but we're just following like the new innovative thing and like the guys running off the cliff, but we're just like, follow him or shift to digital, shift—I mean, all the stuff that we've done in our industry, we've just got, you know, oh, that must be the new thing. Let's go. You know? And I I think that the math is important. And the math of the printed product really works well for us. So I don't know. 

Garrett [00:22:51]: I think we're also good at selling. Like, we have a good sales operation. I think that helps too. You know? Yeah. Yeah. There's a lot of, there's a lot of pieces to it. 

Regan-Porter [00:22:59]: Just to your earlier comment about Round Rock and the tech community, and they still value the printed product. I was at Stanford for the fellowship there six years ago. You know, this is the heart of tech. Right? Like and young students who are devoting their entire life to this and are at the cutting edge. And how do people find out about what's going on on campus? Bulletin boards. 

Garrett [00:23:22]: Come on. I know. It's wild. 

Regan-Porter [00:23:25]: And a printed newspaper, the Stanford paper there. Yeah. 

Garrett [00:23:28]: That's how I feel sometimes at these newspaper conference. I'm like, do we really just print out this agenda? Can't we just look at our phones for the—anyways. So yeah. Yeah. The printed agenda sometimes is good. You know? Yep. 

Not abandoning reach and advertising for reader revenue 

Regan-Porter [00:23:40]: So a couple of bits about the free component. You know, it strikes me that when I think of local news success stories, you know, outside of The Times and the national publications, I think of you. I think of Alabama Media Group who went the complete opposite direction. They got rid of all of their print. But they're doing fabulously. And they have no reader, very minimal reader revenue as well. Because reach Is really important to them and their advertisers and their entire business model, and that's what you were just alluding to. So for all of the talk the industry is doing about reader revenue, which I think can be really important, and I think it doesn't have to be paywalls or subscriptions. It could also be donation-based and products. I think free and expanding that reach is something we're abandoning maybe a little too quickly because we're undercutting advertising, and we're undercutting our central place in the community by shrinking our audience by almost by definition when you're requiring payment. So, yeah, could you talk a little about your thought process there? 

Garrett [00:24:40]: Yeah. I mean, I think that that's right. I think the reader revenue push is important. And I think every model is just so different. Like, how you want to pull it off is you need to start by saying, like, what's your business plan? And then you need to do the math. So, like, if you're reader, if you wanna start a new publication or if you're a publication that wants to do reader revenue, that's fine. Like, there's some great examples of that. But, like, look at the Baltimore banner. 

Garrett [00:25:09]: Like, they've gotten 35,000 paid readers down, which is insane. It's amazing. Now they're still not making money, and the founder put 50 million into it. So, like, if you have 50 million, then maybe you could build a straight line reader revenue product like they are, and maybe it'll be, like, successful, but it's hard. And so I like the combination. I sometimes wish we had a little bit more reader revenue, and I think we have a plan to do a little bit more of that in a, as we kind of experiment with some things. But our, I mean, our belief is that the local advertising marketplace is enough to sustain our work. And I think Facebook believes that, you know, and so do I. 

Garrett [00:25:55]: So I think we're just—we, you know, if you're a news, if you're a news-side person starting a new publication, it is a diff—it is more challenging, I think, to do that than to be from my perspective where I understand and appreciate the news content. I want, I have a good idea for product, but I can hire really talented people to execute on the news side. But the sales side is a—you know what I mean? It's really harder to do the opposite. There's only been a few examples that I've seen. You may have seen more where you have a strong news leader that leads an organization to really sustainability on the ad revenue side. They usually have a partner or are kind of a unicorn like an Evan Smith, you know, who if you've never heard Evan Smith, that guy could sell better than anybody. He's great. 

Keys to driving ad sales 

Regan-Porter [00:26:46]: Talk a little bit about your ad team and the success in advertising because, you know, one of the things I constantly hear from publishers is it's so hard to find good salespeople and managing a sales team is an art, and getting the messaging and the branding. And so what has been key to your success there? 

Garrett [00:27:07]: Yeah. We start by, you know, being a real partner to the local business. Like, we—a lot of people take this approach, but we have a long term view. So we're not trying to just sell somebody and get out of there. Like, if people say no to us, that's okay. Like, we plan to be in the community for a long time. So we have a long term view in our approach. We try to be solutions oriented. 

Garrett [00:27:29]: So we do what we call the three-call close. Like we go we go out by the way. So, like, if your sales team's not going out to the community and they're just sitting behind their desk and they're just emailing or using, you know, lists or whatever, like, that's the—we go out, we pound the pavement. Right? We're knocking on doors. We're walking in. We're introducing ourselves. We're going to Chamber of Commerce events. So we're introducing ourselves, and then we go visit. 

Garrett [00:27:52]: We have a three kind of a call approach. So the second visit is kind of what we call the discovery call. So we're asking them, like, what are they trying to accomplish? What makes their business great? And then now as consultants and as people who know how to tell stories, right, we're able to kind of say, okay, this is what their story should look like in an ad. And so then we go back to what we call the decision day, and we approach what they told us in the interview. And we say, hey, like, you said this, you said this, you said this. Hey, this is what I came up with or this is the idea that I have that will help you get your news out to the community. How do you like the plan? And then you just shut up and you just like, let the business owner kind of tell you. And it's okay if they say no. 

Garrett [00:28:32]: Like, you've made a new friend. You're gonna be able, there long term. And one day, as you continue to grow your product, they will say yes. You just have to keep asking. So it, to me, it's really about work—we have one of the hardest working sales teams in the country. Our most successful salespeople sell mission. Like, if you wanna have a business in the, in this community and you wanna tell people in the community that you care about the community, the one of the best things you can do is advertise in our paper because you're saying that you care about Round Rock. You're saying that you're a local business in Katy. 

Garrett [00:29:07]: Right? And that's how our readers view our paper. So our readers, they see this as local. They don't know you're there. Like, by advertising in our product, you're saying something important about your business. But here's the other thing about community news is advertisements are part of the content. And what I mean by that is readers look forward to the advertising. Like they want to find a local dentist or they want to find who the new restaurant is. 

Garrett [00:29:33]: Right. That's the cool thing about it's like the old classifieds and the legacy print products. Like, the classifieds actually sold papers. Right? People would buy the paper because they needed a new job. Right. Right. Yeah. Yeah. 

Garrett [00:29:46]: So what I've found in a free product is that the ads actually are part of the reader's appreciation. Like, they wanna know these things, which I think is really cool. 

Geography is your great advantage with an advertiser 

Regan-Porter [00:29:57]: So, and I think that gets to the answer to my next question, which is, you know, I'm sure you run up against advertisers who are like, why would I advertise in print? Look. I can go to Facebook and do a Google search ad and I can get all kinds of hyper targeted, you know, just the people who are searching for, you know, the dentist. So why would I spend all that money to reach, you know, 80,000 people when I can find just the 500 who are searching for dentists? 

Garrett [00:30:22]: Yeah. I mean, I think the number one answer to that is that the great thing about our business is that geography is the number one filter. So if you went on to Facebook and you're like, hey. I wanna only reach people in my ZIP code that need, may need or whatever the other demographic pieces you wanna put on, the most important thing to the dentist is actually the geography. Right? Like, people around my store. Right? Not, you know, do you like Metallica music? Not…you know what I mean? The truth is that you can go crazy. That's why business to consumer, like, national brands have done so well on Instagram is because you can really drill down on all these things and you can do all this cool, like, demographic retargeting, all these things. Right? Well, the average local business doesn't need any of that. 

Garrett [00:31:08]: The main, the most important thing is geography. So, and when you target down at the geographic level that we go to, even if it's a zip code, I mean, we can target actually down to the post office truck like the carrier route. We can target down that far for our advertisers. But even if you were just to do ZIP code on Meta, we're gonna be more affordable. Right? So if geography is your most important thing, then we win, or at least we compete. Right? So I think that that's how we beat those guys. And, I mean, we have modernized our product. We have a product called CI 360 that that includes print, that includes email newsletters and programmatic as kind of a package. 

Garrett [00:31:47]: So for those more modern advertisers, it's nice to have that product mix, but at the end of the day, it's about geography for most of our customers. 

Regan-Porter [00:31:56]: Yeah. I also think sometimes we forget the very different nature of a print ad and an online ad. An online ad is there for seconds and it's gone and you seldom remember it. Print ads are there. You've got a monthly publication that's staying in those houses. You have pass-alongs. So there's a whole different way of measuring, really, if you were to drill down into it, than just an eyeball seeing it for, you know, fractions of a second. 

Garrett [00:32:21]: Yeah. We just gotta be able to compete. Right, Tim? So I think as long as you can compete and have it, like, a story to tell like you just did, then you just gotta be able to convince the person to spend money with you instead of with the competitor. Right? That's what the salesperson's job is. And what I want to encourage editorial folks is, especially if you're starting, like, if you're starting a new publication, asking somebody, hey, would you help me get this thing off the ground, is one of the best things that you can do. And I think that sometimes journalists don't understand that a lot of, like, local business owners, somebody gave them a chance, and somebody helped them. And so just that appeal in itself is incredibly valuable. I think that's what Evan Smith did the best when they launched Texas Tribune is they basically told the business community in Texas, hey, will you help us bring great state house reporting to Texas? Like in it, there's a need there. 

Garrett [00:33:15]: Will you help us? And I think asking journalists to do that, you know, just apply the same principles you do to try to get a scoop. Right? Like, why would you give it to this other person? Like, would you give it to me first? Right? It's the same idea. And I think that journalists who are starting, if they take that approach, they're gonna be surprised by that. They can keep their integrity. They don't have to sell out of their editorial integrity, and people are gonna support them in ways that they would never have believed. Because people are kind. Generally speaking, business owners are kind. You know? 

Digital transformation at CI 

Regan-Porter [00:33:50]: As you mentioned, CI 360, which I think is part of a set of innovations that you're calling the trifecta. So what is that? 

Garrett [00:33:58]: Yeah. We had a big goal. We did the dual transformation thing, and we wanted to transform our current product and transform into some digital products. So the pandemic gave us the email newsletter. People, we didn't really have it until the pandemic. People wanted to know how many people got COVID in Round Rock last, yesterday. Remember? So we kinda created this newsletter that became really popular, and that was part of this transformation. So we had this digital team that kind of transformed us to be in a more digitally savvy company. 

Garrett [00:34:28]: But, also, the part of dual transformation is also you take your current business, and you transform it as well. And so we did that a couple of ways. CI 360, we're going to market with a package that people can now have strong print and digital components. It's nothing rocket science. It really isn't. It's something that allows us to use our strength of the print, plus the new email newsletter, and then the programmatic geotargeting that can come with that. So we're doing that. And then the other thing we did in the print side, the trifecta, the last piece of the trifecta was CI Simple. 

Garrett [00:35:00]: I'm sorry, there's two pieces. So, CI Simple, which was kind of taking the Smart Brevity and reformatting our product to be a little bit more modern. And then the last piece was what we call a CI Lite, which was how we go to new markets, like Bastrop, for example, which we launched in September, digital first, with a print product that's coming out this March. So those two, those three things are the trifecta, CI 360, CI Simple, and CI Light. So those, that's what we did, and it was a pretty transformative year for us last year. And I'm really pleased with where we stand today. 

Overexpansion followed by retraction to focus on Texas 

Regan-Porter [00:35:36]: So let's talk a little bit about expansion and retraction. So maybe start with sort of the trajectory of growth from, you know, where you started 18 years ago, and then how you expanded and maybe overexpanded, particularly when you went into other states. So, yeah, just tell us a little bit of that history. 

Garrett [00:35:55]: Yeah. I mean, we started in Austin. We're having success. 2008, 2009, Great Recession happened. One of my good friends who is also at the Houston Chronicle while I was there, but he wanted to start Houston. Terrible time to start, 2008. The recession hit Houston really hard, but we did. And we got it off the ground, and it was successful. 

Garrett [00:36:14]: And so then you're naturally gonna go, well, we're in Austin and Houston. We should go to Dallas. So we went to Dallas, and we did that. And then, our story is, you know, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, and I thought we were going to go out of business. I mean, these businesses were flooded. We're advertising-driven. I didn't realize obviously that it was a foreshadowing to the pandemic. Right? But we survived that. 

Garrett [00:36:37]: We basically said, hey, there's this phrase in Texas that everything is bigger in Texas. And so we were like, hey. We think CI's mission is bigger than Texas. Right? So we launched out in Phoenix, and we had a lot of success in Phoenix. We had, I think, four editions, and we were growing. And then we had an opportunity to go out to Nashville. And, you know, just honestly, I feel like a little bit of pride got in my way in that deal. And so that kind of messed—I think that messed us up a bit, if I'm just being honest as a CEO. 

Garrett [00:37:08]: So we went out there, and then, really bad timing was Atlanta. We launched Atlanta in March of 2020. And I still think Atlanta would have been great. They have some great publications there, but we were excited to be out there. But, you know, the pandemic happened. It made us pull back. We weren't as successful in Nashville as we had hoped, as quickly as we had hoped. Atlanta was easy. 

Garrett [00:37:29]: Right? But Nashville was like, okay. That's harder. But we did. We pulled back. And they were like, why would we wanna be Texas and Phoenix? And so it just didn't make sense. And so for us, we're like, let's just focus on Texas. We ended up selling our Phoenix operations to Independent Newsmedia there in Phoenix, and we decided to focus on Texas. And that was kind of our, that's kind of our journey. 

Garrett [00:37:51]: And now, like, although it was really hard and hard on my pride and sad for a lot of our people that we lost along the way, I'm so excited because I think Texas is a huge opportunity and it's the ninth largest economy in the world, and we're really well positioned to do a lot of really great things here. So I think that's, you know, it's easy for us now. We're starting to brand CI Texas. We're starting to really think more about Texas as our kind of our, you know, put our flag in the sand, so to speak. And that is, it is what it is. So… 

Regan-Porter [00:38:25]: Yeah. In terms of the expansion, do you think what, was there an issue with the business model, or was it just focus and, you know, your capacity and you're just better served focusing, you know, in your home state? 

Garrett [00:38:41]: I mean, Phoenix was good. Like, we were doing it. I mean, we ended up playing out of Phoenix, and we sold those markets. You know, what we do is different, and not everyone agrees with it. Like, the full circulation, we're printing and mailing. In Phoenix, I think we had something like 250,000 at the time. Those markets—or maybe even 300,000. And so, you know, the new owner kind of scaled that back, and they're super successful privately held news organizations. 

Garrett [00:39:09]: So their strategy is just different than ours. And I think in their ways, they make more money than we do. So, like, maybe it's me. So I do think that this model works elsewhere. And I used to, you know, I don't know how old you are, but my generation of being in the news business has always been like, hey. Don't tell people what you're doing because they might steal it and be private. The next generation of media leaders that I really admire, they're the ones that are like, hey. This is what we're doing over here. 

Garrett [00:39:35]: This is what we're doing. They understand the difference between the scarcity mentality and the abundance mentality. Right? And I, you know, again, just being vulnerable here, I think I was more of the scarcity guy before the pandemic. And I was like, this is my model. This is like, I don't want anybody to steal it. That's where I got in a little bit of trouble in Nashville. There's kind of a copycat that was really bothering me. But I've grown, by the grace of God, I'm growing as a CEO. 

Garrett [00:39:59]: I think I'm a better CEO today than I was before, and I've learned. And I'm learning. Right? Still at—I'm 48. But still at this age, I feel like I'm still learning that this idea of abundance mentality for our industry is so important. So you don't have to agree with me. You can think print's dead because your, you know, your personal—you like to be on digital. That's fine. I don't, I'm learning that, like, I'm not gonna have that argument with you. 

Garrett [00:40:23]: But I think we have things to learn from each other and we can grow in. And so anyways, that's a long way around what you asked. But, you know, I feel like if I can share some of these ideas with others and they can take some of the things I've done well to other cities. Great. And before I was like, no, no, no. You know, this is mine. 

Garrett [00:40:41]: And so I'm feeling good. I'm feeling good about my personal growth. 

Burnout among leaders 

Regan-Porter [00:40:45]: Well, while we're on vulnerability, you posted to LinkedIn just recently, a study where you talked about, you know, there's been a lot of talk about employee wellness and rightfully so, and it's a I think it's a big concern in our industry. But the study showed that more C-level executives have thought about leaving their jobs than employees, and we sometimes just completely neglect that. So talk a little bit about your, that evolution you were just alluding to and just sort of your own mental health and ability to to grow and stay in the game. 

Garrett [00:41:17]: Yeah. Thanks for asking, Tim. I think it's so important. Like, I did that, that data. I couldn't believe the data because we as leaders, we talk so much about the Great Resignation. Right? So as leaders, we were trying to keep everybody on board, and that's a lot of energy. That took a lot of energy. And as a leader, sometimes you have to fake it till you make it. 

Garrett [00:41:37]: Right? Like, you have to say, like, we're gonna make it. We're gonna make it. And in the back of your head, you're like, I don't know if we're gonna make it. And I think that, I—that just really resonated with me. And what's really interesting is, Tim, I went to my executive team. We had a Christmas party in January because we all got COVID in December. So we got this, we got together as a leadership team, and I told them that story. And it was really interesting as I was going around my executive team, and I was telling them that, like, hey. 

Garrett [00:42:02]: This is what the data said. I could almost see it in their eyes. Like they were thinking about quitting too. Isn't that wild? Like these are the people that you're in battle—I would never have guessed that they were thinking the same, but listen, I was too. I was like, what am I doing? Like, this is hard. And as a leader through the last few years, there's never been a finish line. You you wanna finish. You wanna, like, hit the goal and, like, then there's something else that happens, and then something else that happens. 

Garrett [00:42:24]: And so what I did to kind of overcome that personally is I took time off. I took a nice sabbatical. I took 30 days off. I went to the mountains. I hung out with friends. I really dug into my own spiritual journey. I really spent time with the Lord and tried to just surrender more of my thoughts and actions, my future. I studied our industry. 

Garrett [00:42:46]: I paid attention to the newsletters. I really love looking at other business models in our industry and learning from them. And I did all that. And so those are the things that I did to kind of get back, but I'm back, Tim. I, I am so excited about where I'm at and where our company's at. The problem is, I've got a lot of people that are still kinda, yeah, there's still dazed and confused and I get it. But the what's great is I get to have empathy and I get to say, like, I get it. And I, and to me, I'm not faking it. 

Garrett [00:43:11]: Like, I love where we stand today as an organization. I love all the innovation we did last year. I love how people love our product. And I love how hard it is. I'm in the printing. You know, we have a printing company right next door to our headquarters here in Austin. I'm actually over there every day now because I'm working on some things that need to be fixed, and I'm, like, getting kicked in the face five times a day with manufacturing issues. But I'm like, I have a lot of energy and I think I'm grateful for that. 

Garrett [00:43:37]: But I think just seeing that data made me feel like I wasn't crazy or I wasn't a loser for feeling like I wanted to quit, if that makes sense. 

Recent growth and plans for the future 

Regan-Porter [00:43:46]: So I think you alluded—you said earlier that your revenues for 23 are gonna be around 33, just under 33 million, which I think is—based on the Texas Monthly story—that's, is that your record year then? 

Garrett [00:43:56]: No. You know what? I need to look because pre, you know, when we had Phoenix and Nashville altogether, I want to say we were at least, we budgeted 35 million. I don't know if we actually hit it, but I need to look. That would be really cool to say that if that was true. I need—it's gonna be close. Yeah. Before we recovered from 2019, which to me that I'm so grateful that we survived that, and now we're able to show from a revenue standpoint that we can, we have resilience as a product and as a company. 

Regan-Porter [00:44:26]: And I know you have big ambitions for the future. I don't know if there's still sort of the level of ambition I've heard you say before, but what's where do you think this goes? 

Garrett [00:44:35]: Yeah. I think Texas is, like, ripe for an organization like us. I mean, I just think we have this like great brand here, but people really love us in Houston and Dallas. That's something, you know, the old operators, legacy operators struggle with because, you know, if you're so what's funny for me is I'm a Dallas Cowboys fan, but a Houston Astros fan. Right? Which makes no sense because you think you'd be Texas, but I'm in Austin. So, like, but in Houston, they hate Dallas. Right? And Dallas is starting to hate Houston because of what happened in the World Series. So the Dallas Morning News can't really go to Houston. 

Garrett [00:45:08]: Right? The Houston Chronicle can't go to the Dallas, and there's different owners and all that kind of thing. But every you know, people in Houston love Community Impact, and people in Dallas love Community Impact. So I think we have this kind of crazy opportunity in front of us to kind of become the most trusted local brand of news in Texas. And so that's what I'm pushing for, and we need to grow. We're doing some innovative stuff. We created out of the Project 05 dual transformation. We created a new project. We're calling Project Thoroughbred, and it's the idea of kind of really working on the data piece to make sure that we're connecting the dots between our print readers and our email readers and our digital readers so that we can kinda create some more synergies for them and give them better products. And, you know, I think there's some neat, like, editorial approaches. 

Garrett [00:45:56]: Like, let me real quick give you an example. So, like, in South Houston, South Texas, we did a story on a school district that got rid of class rankings for college applications. And the data was incredible. It was, like, before when they used to do class rankings, something like 20% would would get into tier level Texas universities. But after they got rid of it, it was, like, 50%. And so we did this great data and all this stuff. And I was thinking, you know, wouldn't their residents of Frisco, Texas and and Dallas or Round Rock, residents in Austin, wouldn't they wanna know this data too? So creating, like, Texas enterprise level journalism that's taking the good work that all these hyperlocal publications are doing around the state and having an editor kind of bring all those together at the state level with our distribution is kind of interesting. You know, what can we do with that? So that's what I would like to see in the future. 

Garrett [00:46:49]: And I think being focused on Texas helps me a lot. Still innovate and be excited, but also manage our resources so that we can win, you know, win here in Texas. 

Rapid-fire questions 

Regan-Porter [00:46:59]: Yeah. Alright. So I'd like to end with some rapid fire questions. And the questions are rapid. Your answers don't have to be. So first, I think I know what the answer is in terms of Community Impact. But in terms of the industry, compared to a year ago, are you more or less optimistic about the future of local news? 

Garrett [00:47:16]: More optimistic. 

Regan-Porter [00:47:17]: And why is that? 

Garrett [00:47:19]: I think that there's a lot of entrepreneurs out there around the country. There's a lot of tech that's being developed around kind of entrepreneurial ecosystem. That's gonna be, that's also—and a lot of that tech is really good. And I think news entrepreneurs around the country have a real shot. If they can get the editorial and the sales piece down together, they've got some really great tools. So I'm optimistic about that. And also, the other thing that I'm seeing just on our side is readers really are starting to care a lot about the quality of local news. And so they're starting to see, right, that publications are going away. The quality of local news is not getting better. 

Garrett [00:47:53]: So if we can get some more reader support on the reader revenue side, plus have an advertising model, and these entrepreneurs all around the country, I'm optimistic. 

Regan-Porter [00:48:03]: Does AI fill you with more hope or dread when it comes to journalism? 

Garrett [00:48:08]: My theory today on that is I think—it's, you know, it's a learning, it's a language model. Right? And I think one thing that humans are really good at is we're able to pick up accents. I don't know if you've noticed this or not, Tim, but I've noticed some people on Twitter I follow, they're using AI. And I don't know that except that I'm reading their words, and it sounds like AI. You know, if I meet somebody from Wisconsin, I know. If I meet somebody from New York, I know. If you meet somebody from Texas, you kind of know. Like, humans are really good at picking up accents and AI has an accent. 

Garrett [00:48:34]: I think it's a cool tool. I think it helps us. It helps us personally with, you know, writing better headlines, and I think it can help, just like, you know, on Google Sheets or Google, you know, Docs where it has a little squiggly underline. But do you mean this? I think it's gonna help our reporters and our teams write better, but I think we need to be very careful if our readers start hearing the AI language. I don't know. I guess we'll see, but I'm not worried about AI. I think it's gonna play out the way it needs to play out and having somebody figure out what's really important from a human standpoint, I think that's our superpower. 

Regan-Porter [00:49:10]: Messy desk or clean desk? 

Garrett [00:49:12]: Messy desk. Yeah. I'm trying to do a better job, but it's messy. My head's messy. My desk's messy. God bless my wife. She's clean and God bless her. I leave my shoes everywhere. 

Garrett [00:49:24]: It's it's it's—yeah. 

Regan-Porter [00:49:26]: Do you have a favorite piece of advice you've received or that you like to dole out? 

Garrett [00:49:32]: Parenting advice. My favorite piece of parenting advice is don't judge other parents. When you have young kids and you see other young kids that are running around and you're like, why don't they discipline those kids? I have learned that when you get older and you recognize the parents are doing the best that they can, and sometimes kids just go their own way. It's not the, that's my best advice. Do not judge other parents. 

Regan-Porter [00:49:56]: Do you have a favorite failure of yours? 

Garrett [00:49:59]: I've got, failed a lot. Like, I'm trying to think of a favorite one. I think just appreciating what you have, like, you know, think sometimes we get out of track of the treasure that we have. And so we're thinking about maybe other people. So, like so not a really—I mean, I really am learning like so I'm so grateful for what I have today. And I think that in the past I would always look at somebody else's scorecard. Like, what is success? What is somebody else doing and trying to measure up against that? Like, instead of like seeing what I have around me and like being grateful for my family and for my work and for my coworkers, I think that I've done that a lot. And so I'm trying to get better at that. Also, just second thing is assuming people's motives. 

Garrett [00:50:45]: I mean, I can't tell you how many times I've had hard conversations with people all because I assume somebody's motives were the wrong motive. 

Regan-Porter [00:50:51]: Do you have a favorite place or an activity you like to do when you just wanna think big? 

Garrett [00:50:57]: My back porch, I have a little, like, community, like, retention pond back there that they, that has ducks and stuff. And I love a cigar. So I'll smoke a cigar and hang out there and my brain, or that's where my good stuff is for sure. 

Regan-Porter [00:51:13]: You talked about your sabbatical. What are the, what other sorts of things do you do to sort of restore your sanity and maintain equilibrium? 

Garrett [00:51:21]: Yeah. So, yeah, I go out there and I'll have a cigar and look at the nature, you know, beautiful trees and water. And that's kind of where I go to just think and dream. And sometimes it's funny. My team will be like I'll, like, email them something, like an idea, and they'll be like, okay. John's on his back porch. So let's be careful because we don't wanna, like, do this. This is just, he's in ideating phase. 

Regan-Porter [00:51:48]: Do you have a favorite time saving hack? 

Garrett [00:51:52]: Time saving hack for me is gonna be trying to make sure that I'm actually not dropping the ball. So I use Franklin Time Management. And if you're familiar with that, it's like, you know, scheduling all of your tasks in A, B, or C and then numbering those and just going A1, check; A2, check; A3, check. And I have found that that saves a lot of time because if, my brain, I'm just, like, all over the place. I'll get an email from somebody or a text from somebody. It distracts me, and it's a mess. But so that's my time saving hack is following Franklin Time Management, which I learned at the Houston Chronicle back in 1998. 

Regan-Porter [00:52:28]: What's a creative measure of success you've set for yourself or your team? Or do you have a—how do you measure success? 

Garrett [00:52:34]: You know, I mean, that we have KPIs, obviously, that manage the success of the business. The creative piece of that, I don't think there's anything creative of how we measure our success. I'm big into open book management. So, you know, we study, I studied that. There's an organization called Great Game of Business, and there's a book out by a guy who kind of followed it. And I actually got to see it live where people own numbers and they really try to share open book management principles. There's a difference between open book reporting, which is what we're really actually good at, where you're like, hey, this is how we did. We share all this data with our impactors, our employees. But open book management is different in that you're not just reporting the numbers. 

Garrett [00:53:21]: You're saying, hey, these are the numbers. How can we, how can we actually in real time fix these? And so we're really as an organization trying to get better at that. And I have a great integrator, kind of our CFO. Her name's Kelly, who's kind of really helping me get that implemented. So to me, I think first I think for us to measure success would be, you know, obviously, that we're profitable, we're making money, we're growing the business, but also that people feel our teammates feel like a real direct role in the success of our business. And the great game of business, even as a cheesy name, and I don't love the name, If you Google it, you'll find it. But it is, it's kind of a neat way to kinda incorporate everybody into the business. 

Regan-Porter [00:54:04]: Five years out, what would wild success look like for Creative Impact? 

Garrett [00:54:09]: For us, five years from today, we will have made significant progress on some of the dreams I told you about with the CI, you know, Texas enterprise-level journalism. We are gonna be all over Texas. We're gonna be in the Rio Grande. We're gonna be in West Texas. We're gonna be in some of these smaller markets that don't have big suburban hubs. And I think what would be wild success for CI is at least one of my three daughters is in the business. And we're starting to think about generational, you know, second generation running the business. That's really important to me where I really want to build a company that last 100 years. 

Garrett [00:54:50]: And I think how you transfer the ownership of the business as you, that is an important piece of that. So my oldest daughter is studying journalism at UT. The next two daughters, one of my daughters is getting ready to decide what she wants to do for college. We'll see. I have a younger daughter that has also shown some interest in the business, so we'll see. But to me, that'd be kinda cool. Five years from now, all five will be almost out of school, out of college, and we'll see how far we've gone with the second gen thing. 

Regan-Porter [00:55:19]: Alright. Well, thanks for your time. It's been great, and I look forward to seeing where you take things. 

Garrett [00:55:27]: Thanks, Tim. Appreciate what you're doing for the business, the industry too. I really appreciate you inviting me to come, and I'm always here to help anybody that needs help. I hope if you, if anybody who's listening to this wants to reach out to me, they they can reach out to me at my email or just call me, and I'd be happy to help. 

Regan-Porter [00:55:43]: Alright. Great. Well, I appreciate it. Thanks a lot.  

Thank you for listening to the Local News Matters podcast. Never miss an episode by subscribing in your favorite podcast player and sign up for our newsletter at lnmpod.com. And thanks to our production partners at Pirate Audio. Pirate Audio believes every community deserves great things to listen to, and they're on a mission to help local newsrooms reach their communities via audio. 

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Past guests on the Local News Matters podcast include: Shannon Kinney (Dream Local Digital), Larry Ryckman (The Colorado Sun),  Frank Mungeam (Local Media Association), Kelly Ann Scott (Alabama Media Group), Sara Lomax and S. Mitra Kalita (URL Media), Elizabeth Hansen Shapiro (National Trust for Local News), Mike Rispoli and Richard Young (via When the People Decide), Sarabeth Berman (American Journalism Project), Rabbi Hillel Goldberg and Shana Goldberg (Intermountain Jewish News),  Lyndsay C. Green (via The Journalism Salute), Rashad Mahmood and Mark Glaser (New Mexico Local News Fund), Christian Vanek and Barbara Hardt (The Mountain-Ear), Dan Grech (BizHack), Zack Richner (Easy Tax Credits), Tracie Powell (Pivot Fund), Dan Oshinsky (Inbox Collective), Linda Shapley (via What Works), Yehong Zhu and Jake Seaton (Zette, Column), Charity Huff (January Spring), Joaquin Alvarado and Dave Perry (Aurora Sentinel), Steve Waldman (Rebuild Local News), Maritza Félix (Conecta Arizona), Michael Bolden (American Press Institute), Jeff Roberts and Corey Hutchins (CFOIC, Colorado College), Eve Pearlman and Erica Anderson (Spaceship Media), Jennifer Brandel (Hearken, Democracy SOS), Corey Hutchins with Bay Edwards, Todd Chamberlain and Raleigh Burleigh (Sopris Sun).