Monday marks Bobby Blanchard’s six-year anniversary at The Texas Tribune, a milestone that doesn’t include his first experiences here as a fellow in 2014 and 2015.
As director of audience, Bobby has helped oversee the doubling and diversification of the Tribune’s audience — a core goal of the strategic plan we announced in 2018.
I’m very pleased to announce that Bobby has been promoted to chief audience officer and a member of the Tribune’s senior management team. In this new role, he’ll work closely with me, CEO Evan Smith (and his successor) and the rest of the team to attain goals around engagement, membership, newsletters and service journalism.
Over the past decade or so, audience engagement positions have flourished as newsrooms have recognized how much more active journalists need to be in surfacing our work, identifying new audiences and earning their trust. Skills like search-engine optimization and deft use of social media remain critical, but audience work has grown far beyond that.
For example, under Kassie Kelly’s leadership, our membership program is approaching 10,000 members who make pledges of up to $1,000 a year. Also under Bobby, Allyson Waller has reinvigorated our newsletters, and María Méndez has produced fantastic journalism directly responsive to readers’ most important information needs. John Hernandez joined us recently as our assistant director of audience and has already made a big impact with his thoughtful leadership.
We will also post a new audience producer role; that hire will work closely with John and audience producer Natalie Martinez on day-to-day distribution of our journalism off platform. Jessica Priest, as the engagement reporter for the ProPublica-Texas Tribune team, also continues to report to Bobby.
As a member of the senior management team, Bobby will lead our strategic response to the audience study recently conducted for us by Magid, the research company, which was full of insights about our current and potential audience and identified key areas of opportunity for us to reach even more Texans. Bobby’s participation in the Tribune’s senior management team will formalize what we already know: Bobby is instrumental to everything we achieve here and a big part of the Tribune’s future.