Mega-Conference General Session

NexGen Business Models: Finding Success Amid Today's Challenges

Evan Smith, Jim Brady and Sara Fischer
Evan Smith, Jim Brady and Sara Fischer

The entrepreneurs of media today will discuss the NexGen Business Models for Media at the 2018 Mega-Conference, set for Feb. 26-28 in San Diego.  During this session, learn how they have answered the challenge of making money in today's media landscape.

Panelists will be:

  • Evan Smith, CEO, The Texas Tribune, Austin, Texas
  • Jim Brady, founder and CEO, Spirited Media, Great Falls, Va.
  • Sara Fischer, media reporter, Axios, Arlington, Va.

"It's a myth," Smith said, "that nonprofit news orgs can't be sustainable – we've proved that it's possible not only to survive but thrive for eight years-plus. A diverse set of revenue streams – a mix of major and member giving, foundation support, corporate underwriting, events sponsorship and earned income – funds our award-winning accountability journalism and allows us to maintain the largest newsroom covering a state capitol in the country. This model is a winner for us and can be scaled up or down to succeed elsewhere. I'm eager to tell all."

"If recent times have taught us anything," says Brady, "it's that media cannot make it on advertising alone, and that finding diverse revenue streams is necessary for survival. Hopefully, those of us on this panel can give some actionable information for those looking to expand into events, memberships and subscriptions."

Fischer will deliver a deep dive into the evolving trends reshaping the digital media – covering new media technology, industry IPOs and acquisitions, emerging user behaviors and the policy fault lines in between. Aside from her weekly newsletter, Fischer gives customized presentations about trends shaping the media landscape for an array of audiences that include corporate executives, Wall Street analysts, foreign policy professionals and journalists.

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Our presenters:

Evan Smith is the CEO and co-founder of The Texas Tribune, a pioneering nonprofit, nonpartisan digital news organization whose deep coverage of Texas politics and public policy can be found at its website,, in newspapers and on TV and radio stations across the state, and in the print and online editions of The Washington Post.

Since its launch in 2009, the Tribune has won international acclaim and numerous honors, including a Peabody Award, 13 national Edward R. Murrow Awards from the Radio Television Digital News Association and three general excellence awards from the Online News Association. Smith also is the host of "Overheard with Evan Smith," a weekly half-hour interview program that airs on PBS stations around the country. Previously he spent nearly 18 years at Texas Monthly, including eight years as the magazine's editor and a year as its president and editor-in-chief. 

Jim Brady is the CEO of Spirited Media, which operates Billy Penn in Philadelphia, The Incline in Pittsburgh and Denverite in Denver. Before entering the pure startup world, Brady served as executive editor of, editor-in-chief of Digital First Media, general manager of TBD and as head of News and Sports for America Online. He also served as public editor of ESPN from November 2015 to November 2017.

During his tenure at, the site won a national Emmy award for its Hurricane Katrina coverage, a Peabody Award for its "Being a Black Man" series, an Editor & Publisher award for Best Overall Newspaper-Affiliated Website, two Digital Edge awards for Best Overall News Site, a Knight-Batten Award for Innovations in Journalism, two Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Awards, four Edward R. Murrow Awards for Best Non-Broadcast Affiliated Website, and more than 100 White House News Photographers video awards. Brady also was on the original launch team of, serving as sports editor and then assistant managing editor for news from 1995 to 1999. 

Sara Fischer is a media reporter for Axios, covering media trends. Previously, she was a digital producer for The Washington Post, where she produced and edited segments for live and digital audiences. Fischer's media background includes writing, reporting, subscription and advertising sales, as well as corporate research. She came to The Post from The New York Times where she was part of The Times' political advertising team. Fischer joined The Times from CNN in 2014, where she wrote breaking news stories for CNN Politics and co-authored the network's political newsletter, Gut Check. Before joining CNN, Fischer served as a business development associate at POLITICO, where she helped manage sales operations and client engagement for the company's advertising team. She holds a bachelor's degree from The George Washington University in political communication and a master's degree from The George Washington University in legislative affairs.  

The Key Executives Mega-Conference is a joint effort of the Inland Press Association, Local Media Association, Southern Newspaper Publishers Association, News Media Allliance and the California News Publishers Association.

In its eighth year, Mega-Conference attendance ranges from 700-900 attendees. Most of the attendees are owners, publishers, digital officers or revenue officers of media operations with both print and digital assets, serving their local communities.  A sizable trade show is associated with the conference.

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Mega-Conference, Smith, Brady, Fischer