Cynthia DuBose, senior vice president of product and experience at McClatchy, recently joined the Local Media Association Board of Directors. At McClatchy, she drives cross-departmental collaboration to develop new platforms, experiences and products. Through her career, Cynthia has played an integral role in developing and launching local, customer-centric digital products, leveraging content distribution channels (social, audio, video, search engine optimization) to help local news organizations reach the right audience at the right time. She has championed product road maps; conceived novel user experiences; developed analytics, project management and SEO capabilities; and launched a reimagined e-edition. Cynthia shared her thoughts on the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the local media industry.

How has the local media industry transformed since you started working in it?

Let’s start with how it hasn’t changed: Our commitment to covering and engaging with our communities remains steadfast and strong. That’s part of why I’ve stayed in local media for my entire career. To me, the most change has come in distribution channels. Print used to be the only channel to reach your audience. When I entered the industry, that was expanding to print and digital. But now, just think about all the ways we can talk with our readers — email, social, web pushes, text messages and even [artificial intelligence]-based channels. There is always a new tool with which to experiment, and it’s exciting.

What initiatives or areas of focus do you think will have the most positive impact on your organization’s future?

Personalization. We are experimenting with personalizing our homepage and beginning to discuss newsletter personalization, and additional distribution channels aren’t far behind. If you consider how much of our lives is personalized now (our music, our streaming, even our coffee orders), you can see the potential and power behind being able to personalize local news. Delivering to our readers the information that is most pertinent to their lives, rather than casting about with a wide net, will allow us to exponentially improve our value.

What do you think are the biggest challenges and opportunities in the local media industry today?

One word: AI. Local media markets are already grappling with fundamental challenges: How should we use it? Do we have enough manpower to even begin using it? Is it taking away our audience? Yet I also see myriad opportunities. The work of our journalists is irreplaceable, but AI has the potential to automate tasks and distill information. AI cannot save local journalism, but it can help us rebuild our value as a source of community information, restoring our publications to the community hubs they once were.

Why are you excited to join the LMA board of directors?

LMA is focused on growing the business of local media, and that’s where the emphasis should be. Our journalism, the value it provides, can withstand the challenges presented in today’s world, but the business model needs boundless innovation — that’s at the center of what LMA brings to our industry. I look forward to being a part of the solution.