Renn Turiano

Renn Turiano (Photo: Jeff Chen)

Renn Turiano has just stepped into an interesting job — senior vice president of new subscription products and revenue at Gannett. It’s a big job, since Gannett is the biggest newspaper publisher in the country and subscription is a heavy focus of the industry now. Turiano should have a chance to make his mark, judging from this Sept. 3 interview with News & Tech and his prediction that we should see substantial changes in Gannett’s product offering, monetization, brand position and other things.
 
Reporting to Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer Mayur Gupta, Turiano "will lead a cross-functional team to research, test and launch new content products focusing on accelerating the company’s annual digital subscriber base," says a Gannett press release on his hiring and background (see this link.)
 
News & Tech: Can you give us any preview of the kinds of products you have in mind?
 
Turiano: I joined Gannett just about four weeks ago, so it’s still early days as I navigate my new role. We’re studying the market and learning the needs and habits of our subscribers — and those of our future subscribers! At the same time, I’m collaborating with the many talented folks here at Gannett, brainstorming new concepts and future products to attract new subscribers and help us reach our goal of 10 million digital-only subscribers by 2025. Just in the last two months, Gannett has been making significant investments in growth areas including a sports betting agreement with Tipico U.S. and a new subscription crossword. As we look forward, I hope to elevate the subscriber experience with similarly exciting new products.
 
News & Tech: What’s the time frame on launching new products?
 
Turiano: We have very aggressive, yet entirely rational growth ambitions for 2022. In addition to incubating new products, part of what I hope to bring is a higher-velocity, rapid deployment and testing methodology. If successful, I plan to begin launching many new product experiments as soon as those mechanisms are in place. We’re still in the very early planning stages, but personally I’m aiming for meaningful progress to start emerging in Q2 of 2022.
 
News & Tech: What will be the most significant change in the evolution in your estimation?
 
Turiano: Thanks to smart and very energized people at Gannett, the evolution is already well underway. Our evolution will certainly result in substantial changes to our product offering, monetization, brand position, and numerous other material and intangible things. That said, I honestly believe that the most significant change is philosophical. We will be obsessed with the customer. To me that means we will bring products to market that are guided by and in response to consumer needs. Fortunately, as an established media business, we already offer value, content and products that we know many of our customers need. Now we’re talking to consumers at large to learn more of their wants. We’re looking for gaps in the market that align with consumer needs and opportunities to leverage the advantages and assets we already have—talent, content, data, brand, reach, trust.
 
News & Tech: What do you foresee for the existing content?
 
Turiano: Whenever anything happens across this country — or around the world — Gannett is there. This sentiment has been true for decades. In the case of many of Gannett’s local newspapers, that’s been true for a century or more. We’re a news organization, so we do up-to-the-minute, breaking news exceedingly well — and we’ll continue to do so. We have a vast archive of current and older original content that’s ready to be shaped into products that will allow consumers to dive deeper into whatever topics interest them. We are eager to share our library of non-fiction content in unique and compelling new ways.
 
News & Tech: What trends do you see in subscription growth and retention that will bear on your work?
 
Turiano: Established subscription models work with the expectation of a long-term commitment from the consumer. That model is not going away. But consumers are demanding more and more in exchange for those commitments. In fact, consumers are increasingly interested in more opportunities to bundle services together from a single provider — and they expect providers to continuously add incremental new value. They also expect to bundle services together from different providers, such as getting a video streaming service for free from your wireless provider. At the same time, consumers are looking for short-term subscription opportunities such as a la carte micro transactions like paying a small amount for a single piece of content or a limited experience with no expectation of commitment. Conventional wisdom says we should do whatever we can to lock in those subscription commitments and absolutely discourage “hit-and-run” consumer behavior. I’m not so sure. I think consumers are demonstrating less willingness to surrender control. It’s very interesting to me to see how increasingly diverse access models are driving consumer engagement from acquisition to retention and win-back. I think we should lean into that.
 
News & Tech: What trends do you see in technology now or on the horizon that will bear on your work?
 
Turiano: Growth has always meant getting your product in front of more people in more places and making it really easy to sign up or pay. We now have many new ways to shop and new ways to pay that didn’t exist a short while ago. These have greatly reduced transaction friction and opened up new channels for consumer engagement that we’re already taking for granted. I think new tech will continue to enable us to meet consumers where they are so we can offer them relevant, high-utility products with easy, low-stress conversion experiences.
 
In terms of emerging hard tech, 5G looks like a game-changer to me. If you think your phone is fast now — loading, playing video or games — just wait. We’re accustomed to what our phones can and can’t do right now, so we don’t really think about what they could do. It’s true that many people have 5G already, but it’s expensive and availability is sparse. We’re not going to experience the real benefits until coverage is total and everybody’s handsets are 5G-capable. Robust new mass-market experiences will start to emerge. Our phones and connected devices all around us will light up and extend our digital awareness into our physical environments, weaving into our everyday lives. For a digital product geek like me, working at a place like Gannett, the possibilities are endless.