Pason Gaddis is a man on a mission — make that, missions. After graduating Iowa State University in 1998, he launched a career in media sales with the national media giant Gannett, the largest newspaper company in the United States and publisher of the News Press, where he served almost nine years as Business Development Manager. But Gaddis and two associates had an idea about a different way to deliver printed news and, in 2007 — when many were saying print was a dying medium— they launched Fort Myers Florida Weekly newspaper.
Fast forward to today, and Gaddis and his partners were right. As Co-Founder and CEO, he’s ignited a concept that’s successfully spreading like wildfire — today serving seven markets in South Florida, with plans for expansion and a new venture in Babcock Ranch — via print and digital media.
As for his other mission, that’s one much closer to his heart, as our interview with this passionate entrepreneur and media leader reveals.
Each issue, “Take Five” poses five questions to a community leader or personality that have not previously been shared. Here, Pason Gaddis talks about having a vision, taking risks, finding success where others have flailed or failed and making sure your priorities are in order.
- Print as a medium has been called a dying breed for some time — so how did Florida Weekly come to be?
We worked hard to identify what was relevant to readers in our marketplace. As they went to the web to seek out jobs or homes or stocks, there was still a desire for feature-based, in-depth reporting. So we built our concept on what matters to people in our market the most: healthcare, transportation, food and dining, education, lifestyles. We’re not about reporting the past, we’re about informing people what’s next and what it means to them.
- So this new newspaper concept hits the streets in 2007 and not too much later, the economy tanks. A little nervous?
No question. We had to learn strict disciplines about being nimble, be very efficient, and we had to find a piece of the market where consumers were still spending. Then we had to provide that content to the consumer, so we could deliver return to our advertisers. We invested in our product, our staff and our content, and kept as much capital as we could in the business to fund growth. You know, rubbing a couple nickels together to make a dollar (he laughs), and then not spend that dollar but put it back into the company.
- You’ve now grown to seven markets and are exploring two more, so what’s your key to success?
It starts with our customers: our readers and our advertisers, and listening to their needs. For the readers, it’s finding what the critical mass is interested in a community publication and delivering something meaningful each week. For advertisers, it’s being a partner with them and aligning our product mix to meet their needs. We hire the best people we can find and let ‘em do their thing and be creative, both in content and in sales. And finally, we’re all about honesty and integrity.
- Where are you taking the company from here?
We’ve recently launched Key West Florida Weekly. By some estimates there are four million visitors to Key West each year, so it allows the franchise to be exposed to a lot of people and we’re really excited about that. We’re also in due diligence with Boca Raton and South Beach Miami; we hope to bring those online next year. Our business plan is a statewide circulating brand, really any market in Florida is fair game.
- You’ve also been heavily involved with Southwest Florida’s Heart Ball for the American Heart Association. Where does this passion come from?
Our daughter has a congenital heart defect and had a pacemaker implanted to regulate her heartbeat when she was three years old, and that experience was very humbling for us as parents. Having a child with a medical condition or a disability, no parent should have to go through. So we chose to make it our mission to champion pediatric cardiology research, prevention and education, especially in the areas of childhood obesity. And today, I’m proud to say our daughter’s a beautiful 13-year-old girl and doing wonderfully.
— Story & Image by John Sprecher