Michael Willard writes: In the next year, I predict that we will be in the black.
When you get to be a certain age – let’s be gentle and just say “over 60” – a year passes in the flutter of a hummingbird’s wing. That is how it has been in my year as CEO of the Kyiv Post. It has been a race to cut expenses, raise revenue and ensure independent journalism.
Without a financially secure Kyiv Post, independent journalism and “the World’s Window on Ukraine” (the weekly paper and the regularly updated website) were threatened.
Thanks to our advertisers and readers, a dedicated editorial staff that does more with less and an energized commercial team that refuses to leave a kopek on the table, we’ve turned the corner. For me, it continues to be a fascinating ride back to the future.
A year ago, our ever-patient publisher, ISTIL chairman Mohammad Zahoor, was losing money on the newspaper. Today, we are close to breaking even. In the next year, I predict that we will be in the black.
We managed to substantially increase revenue over the previous fiscal year and to cut expenses significantly, including by shrinking the journalistic staff from 30 to 17 people.
However, we are not naive. We realize that economic crises tend to occur with regularity. We know this, but choose to be optimistic. The alternative is not terribly productive. I try to live up to the title of a book I wrote, “The Optimistic Alien.”
For the increase in revenue, I am grateful to our advertisers, subscribers and users of other Kyiv Post services. You responded to our message that the Kyiv Post was a good place for your ad, was a great read for your employees and had expertise in commercial editorial services.
Others concluded that the Kyiv Post was not only a good vehicle to reach a very good audience, but they also felt contributing to an independent press simply made sense. Isn’t that what it’s all about: making Ukraine a better place to live and work?
Early on, I met with Dario Marchetti, managing director of Danone. He told me how important the Kyiv Post was to the community, and then backed it up with advertising. I don’t know how much Activia he sold as a result, but that was only a secondary reason for his placing ads in the Kyiv Post.
The European Business Association was already on board, and continued its confidence in the Kyiv Post by having a full-page presence each week. Other big advertisers were MoneyGram, Raiffeisen Bank Aval, TNK-BP, Atlas Copco, Rhenus Logistic, Russian Standard, ABB and various restaurants.
And thank God for lawyers: They find the Kyiv Post perfectly suited for reaching clients and potential clients. We know the potential is there for much more advertising. Cutting people and salaries is never pleasant. However, I figured I could live with that for a short time, so long as we became fundamentally sound and could restore salaries as we made more money in the future.
Conversely, the role of chief cheerleader for the Kyiv Post in the business community is one I have enjoyed. At heart, the role of Kyiv Post CEO is that of a salesman. While I like to think of myself as a journalist - my first of three professions - I can put on a Fuller Brush salesman’s smile and knock on doors.
But what the heck, my dad sold Mercury automobiles. It’s an honorable profession. The Mercury brand is no longer in existence, but with support like the Kyiv Post has received from the community this year, this newspaper will be around for many years to come.
Kyiv Post CEO Michael Willard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org