Florida Weekly defied the odds for new start-ups and became media leader


Just as Florida Weekly launched in 2007, the nation was headed into the "great recession." Pason Gaddis, however, did not let dire economic predictions steer him away from his vision to create a publication that would become a technological leader in Southwest Florida's media arena. As president and CEO of Florida Weekly, Gaddis spoke at the 2017 Key Executives Mega-Conference in Orlando about being a "Print Disruptor."

Today, 10 years later, the newspaper has more than 200,000 readers in eight Florida locations, including the newest solar-planned community known as Babcock Ranch. In 2016, a Key West edition was also launched. Both online and in print, the upstart media company is competing with the state's largest daily newspapers for best content. Creating engaging and informative stories with a local emphasis has paid off in numerous awards from the Florida Press Association and a Florida Journalist of the Year for Athena Ponushis from The Society of Professional Journalists.

Gaddis credits a "robust social media" following for much of the newspaper's rapid growth. Florida Weekly has 85,000 Facebook followers and more than 75,000 people have downloaded its tablet application. Reader engagement is a constant goal with event photos being shared not only in the publications but also on FW's Facebook page. Photos of the communities in action and contests to entertain are also popular highlights. Although a small amount of content is shared among the eight locations, most stories are locally written about the individual communities served. 

The company built its formula around creative design, rather than content. The front-page photo is most often the strongest element and the overall graphic design of the publications – both online and in print – entices readers and advertisers.

"People are visual and they need to touch and feel a concept to understand it," said Gaddis. 

The company has also instituted a rigorous "sales academy" for all new associates where they complete an online certification course in effective ad copy writing and design. Gaddis described ongoing quality improvement programs as part of the company's DNA.

To read more about how Florida Weekly interacts with its local communities, be sure to see Gaddis' PowerPoint presentation here.

View additional presenters' PowerPoints from the conference