Mass media holding company Gannett announced today that it has created a new executive leadership role, chief marketing and strategy officer, to lead the organization’s direct-to-consumer and business-to-business endeavors as it transforms into a subscription-led content generator.
Mayur Gupta, former CMO of Freshly and vp of growth and marketing at Spotify, has been appointed Gannett’s first CMSO. In this position, Gupta will not only continue Gannett’s mission to build trusted local communities as it continuously evolves in a digital economy, but he will also lead the company’s marketing and growth functions.
Gupta has served as a member of the Gannett board of directors since last October, and will resign in conjunction with his hiring. He will begin in the newly created role Sept. 8.
“Mayur has a strong track record as a growth and content marketer at big CPGs like Kimberly Clark as well as disruptive startups like Spotify and Freshly that have reshaped their categories,” said Michael Reed, chairman and CEO of Gannett, in a statement. “His experience building content-driven subscription models and his ability to execute on a vision and strategy with speed and agility align well with our goals for this role. In addition, given his board service he has intimate knowledge of the company following our recent acquisition.”
“Over the last year serving on Gannett’s board, I have witnessed two companies come together for a common mission and purpose to empower these local communities. I feel honored for this opportunity to lean into Gannett’s future as a digital content leader and contribute my experience to an already dynamic legacy,” Gupta added in the statement.
Gupta, a computer science engineer-turned-marketer, exclusively told Adweek that transitioning from STEM to marketing was more accidental (and coincidental) than a purposeful drastic career change. He came from his homeland of India to Phoenix in 2001 to work as a senior Java developer at SapientNitro, and later a Lead Java/J2EE Architect in Tampa. The big pivot came in 2006: “I was fortunate enough to be asked to become a product lead for a platform SapientNitro purchased, AdTech Platforms,” Gupta said, “and that is how my first ambition evolved from technology to marketing and advertising.”
Many of the skills Gupta acquired from those years at SapientNitro have been transferrable throughout his more than two decades driving digital transformation and scaled growth at numerous companies and organizations. When Gupta was the vp for growth and marketing at Spotify from 2016 to 2019, he established a growth machinery for Spotify’s multisided marketplace—an algorithm that connects artists with fans through programmatic discovery and accessibility.
As Gannett’s CMSO, Gupta will manage the connection between data, technology and storytelling to deliver original content through myriad digital platforms and emerging technologies (as well as live events) to an audience of roughly 175 million online visitors monthly from the United States and the United Kingdom. Currently, Gannett’s portfolio of publishers and digital marketing businesses includes the USA Today Network, local media organizations in 46 states and Guam, Newsquest, ReachLocal, UpCurve and WordStream (formerly GateHouse Live).
Gupta is aware that he’s joining the media business at a precarious time (Gannett did not pay workers making more than $38,000 for one week per month through June as a direct result of losing ad revenue due to Covid-19), but he’s not wary.
“There’s no question that the role of media has shifted dramatically,” Gupta said, “but these companies play a massive role, a very critical role, in our society today. The future of consumer demand and the future of the industry is going to be how we leverage data in innovation and technology. But what has not changed for us has been our mission around building trust in local communities.”
Gupta will be spending the first few months with his marketing team discussing how they will ensure that journalism, especially hyperlocal journalism, will function as a subscription business that incrementally adds value to the consumer as it evolves.
“While we have been a huge business in traditional media in the past, we are now literally operating with the heart and soul of a disruptor, with a mindset of a startup,” he continued. “We will be challenging ourselves and building that foundational culture that will be able to rapidly pivot in response and to fulfill the emotional needs of our customer.”
Gupta cited examples of how that evolution has already begun at Gannett, such as investments in augmented reality experiences, which he says will bring more learning opportunities and education within local communities. “And, we [USA Today Sports Media Group] just talked with Super League to create an online community centered around esports,” he said. That partnership kicked off in mid-July, garnering an audience of over 60 million mainstream sports video game fans to compete in a Madden NFL 20 competition.
“I think the evolution of journalism has redefined local community—we aren’t limited to geographic proximity. We can create local communities in a digital world, especially where people share a passion, or share beliefs and values,” Gupta said. “We have a fascinating road ahead, and the key is going to be the speed at which we innovate.”