May 14, 2018
Shop Talk

MassLive sees growth in Central Mass.

Photo | Brad Kane
Tim Kennedy, regional president for Advance Local; President of MassLive Media, Springfield.

Tim Kennedy, President of MassLive Media, Springfield.

Founded: 1998

Employees: 50 (Massachusetts)

Age: 54

Birthplace: Detroit

Residence: Manilus, N.Y.

Education: Bachelor of accounting, Western Michigan University; MBA, Northwestern University

While Denver-based Digital First Media closed down the physical office of the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise, New York-based Advance Local is growing its presence in Central Massachusetts. The company is set to open an office for its MassLive Media division near the Worcester Common this month. MassLive Media President Tim Kennedy sat down with WBJ to talk about the expansion.

Why open a Worcester office?

Our strategy is to grow our entire presence statewide. We've been in Worcester for about five years, and we've had enough audience and enough business growth in Central Massachusetts and in the east where we need a physical location. We've had people working out of coffee shops and their homes, and it is important for us to have a place for them to go.

As importantly, it makes us part of the community and the growth happening in downtown Worcester.

This is your second location after Springfield?

Yes. We started in Western Massachusetts, and the strength of our audience is out here. Yet, our growth has been primarily through Central and Eastern Massachusetts.

And, yet, other media companies are scaling back.

The traditional media has its own challenges. Being a pure digital operation gives us our own advantages. So the things we do and cover, we are able to move a little more quickly. More traditional media has to think about what they are going to do with their print products. That gives us a little more freedom. Plus, we pick our spots. We started covering Central Massachusetts about five years ago. After growing enough business there and years of our employees driving up and down the MassPike, it is time to put an office down.

It is a 3,800-square-foot office, so it is not going to break the bank. It is on the corner of Main and Mechanic streets, just a block from Worcester Common.

How many people will be based there?

Six to 10 people, but we don't look at it like anyone has got a homebase. We are so mobile, and our people can work from anywhere. People from our Springfield office will be there sometimes. Our people in Boston who need an office sometimes will head there.

Being in Central Mass. is going to give us a lot of advantages, so people aren't going back and forth to Springfield.

Will it give you more market validity?

I think so. Physical presence means something. When you drive into Springfield and see the MassLive signage on top of this tall building, that means something. Likewise, having the signage on Main Street in Worcester will inform people who are familiar with MassLive – or, more likely, just learning about MassLive – what MassLive is and what it can do for them.

Does your revenue justify the expansion?

From a revenue perspective, we look at ourselves more like a digital marketing agency, rather than a traditional media company or even a digital media company. More than half of what we sell in our revenue is related to products and services not on our MassLive platform: We sell services related to search-engine optimization, social media, creative campaigns, research, and we will buy offline media like billboards for our clients. Half of what we do is that kind of agency work. That is what's growing particularly fast.

It all integrates, though. As the MassLive brand grows – up about 24 percent from last year – we create more awareness, and that helps our salespeople. It opens more doors.

Will you add more employees?

Yes. As our revenue grows, we will grow our headcount. Will we have more offices? I don't know. The business moves really fast, especially compared to traditional media, so we always have to be alert for what we need, whether it is more traditional salespeople, sales technicians, strategists, project managers for the marketing business, more reporters for our pro sports coverage.

We've got a great reputation for developing talented journalists, so we do get poached. We are always looking to hire and looking for great people. Ask me today what our needs are, and in six months, that is going to change.

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by WBJ Editor Brad Kane.

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