In the publishing industry, the highest honor one can receive is Editor & Publisher magazine’s “Publisher of the Year” award. (E&P is the industry “bible.”) With 1,382 daily newspapers in the country, just 58 publishers were nominated this year. Of those, Honolulu Star-Advertiser‘s publisher and Oahu Publications Inc. president Dennis Francis was named the winner last Friday.
“To be named newspaper publisher of the year across all the newspapers in America, it doesn’t get much better than that,” says Francis, who was featured on MidWeek‘s cover Nov. 16, 2011, for his role in helping raise $2 million for Ronald McDonald House. “To be down to the Star-Advertiser as the paper of choice is something I’m proud of.”
While saying that he owes it all to the people around him might sound cliché, he believes it really is true. He not only is proud to be recognized as publisher of the year, but he also thinks of it as winning “newspaper of the year.”
“I have so many incredibly talented people,” he continues. “I couldn’t have been named publisher of the year if the paper was lousy, so it really is a recognition for the newspaper more than anything.”
Francis also boasts that OPI – which has more than 450 employees and includes MidWeek, The Garden Island, Street Pulse, a glossy magazine division including HI Luxury, three military newspapers and a variety of websites – has had almost no turnover. That’s rare in the publishing business.
“Our entry-level, middle-level and senior management are almost exactly the same people who were here eight years ago,” he explains. “You just don’t see that. It’s unheard of. People move on, they get better deals, they go do something else. We must be doing something right to keep the team in place.”
Looking to the future, Francis sees great promise for the company and its employees, and he’s a firm believer in growing at a steady, consistent rate. But even with that consistency, there are new areas that he is excited to explore and prosper in.
“The newspaper industry as a whole, across the country, hasn’t been doing well,” Francis explains. “(But) we make a great product that retains readers and actually gets new readers. That is sustainability for the future.”
In addition to the work that the Star-Advertiser does for its print publication, it also is an industry leader in looking to the digital side of communication by developing mobile platforms that readers expect in today’s day and age.
“We’re the market leader by a mile in terms of page views that we get, the number of unique visits we get,” Francis says. “Between the Star-Advertiser and our Pulse sites, the entertainment sites, we’re doing more than 20 million page views a month.
“That’s substantially larger than all the other media in this town, the state, combined.”
Francis wears many hats in the community, including serving as chairman of the board for Hawaii Chamber of Commerce, and last week he was in Washington, D.C., to meet with the Congressional delegation of U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono and U.S. Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Colleen Hanabusa to discuss how we can bring more jobs to Hawaii.
Francis’ focus has always been on helping those in our community – the reason OPI contributed $1.6 million to Hawaii nonprofits in 2012 – and moving forward, he has high hopes for the Star-Advertiser, MidWeek and all the other hats he wears.