Recently, Kerry Oslund became the coinventor of a smart newspaper rack that is now being tested by the South Bend Tribune, owned by Schurz Communications. The rack has a broadband connection and a display that can show out-of-home advertising and promote stories from the paper. Sensors allow for detailed counts of who has seen the ads.
“We think we are going to be able to sell more newspapers and create a digital out-of-the-home network literally on top of a legacy business,” Oslund says.
The idea highlights Oslund’s long career of using new technologies to breathe fresh life into existing media. Such efforts played a crucial role in his work as a news producer and digital media executive at previous employers such as Gannett, Argyle and Lee Enterprises and are now helping Schurz boost its digital businesses, which have seen their revenue more than double since Oslund was named their top digital executive in 2008.
Though Oslund happily admits to having a geek’s fascination with technology, he stresses that, “my career wasn’t about technology in the beginning when I was in the newsroom and it isn’t all about technology now. It is really about storytelling and finding the tools that are required to do that with picture and sound.”
After working part-time for KGW in Portland Oregon one summer, Oslund fell in love with broadcasting and began working for the CBS affiliate KTSP-TV in Phoenix while attending Arizona State University. After graduating from college in 1983, he joined the station full time and quickly made a name for himself as a news producer, moving to Gannett-owned WXIA-TV in Atlanta in 1985; working on the USA Today on TV show in 1988; and helping create and then supervise KCALTV’s Prime 9 News, the first primetime, local news block in a major market, between 1990 and 1994.
Senior news positions at Gannett, Argyle and Lee Enterprises further cemented his reputation as an early adopter of newer technologies, particularly the use of smaller, lighter, more portable cameras and tools to improve newsgathering.
Oslund shifted to the digital side of the business in 2003, becoming corporate VP of new media at Gannett. Here, he was involved in the launch of many digital properties and a number of acquisitions, work that led him to receive the Gannett Chairman Award in 2008.
At Schurz, Oslund quickly strengthened their digital operations by standardizing technology platforms for ad serving and content management systems so they could more efficiently expand operations. Reporting directly to CEO Todd Schurz, he is able to range across the company’s various operations to coordinate their internal and external efforts. “I’ve been very lucky to have Todd Schurz give me the opportunity to work within the white spaces between disciplines, and connect the dots,” Oslund says.