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NH's New Leadership: Brendan McQuaid
Published Wednesday, April 19, 2017

In January, Publisher Joe McQuaid  of the Union Leader Corp., which publishes NH’s only statewide daily newspaper, relinquished his role as president to his 37-year-old son Brendan. Joe will retain the role of publisher, focusing on editorial, while Brendan will oversee operations.

While Brendan is not as well known, he is hardly new to the Union Leader. After working there as a student, he rejoined the company in 2008, first as head of new media and later as head of operations.

The family became involved with the media company when Brendan’s great-grandfather started as a reporter there. His grandfather co-founded the NH Sunday News and his sister Katie currently writes a weekly column and serves as marketing and special projects manager. But Brendan had little desire at first to join the family business. (It should be noted the company is owned by the nonprofit Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.)

“I thought I would be in law enforcement,” Brendan says of his high school ambitions. However, two weeks after graduation, he was diagnosed with Type I diabetes and decided, with the challenges that presented, to pursue a law degree instead. A year of pre-law changed his mind, and he dropped out of college working a string of “crappy jobs” before pursuing a videography career that had him covering the 2008 presidential election.

Then the recession hit and the newspaper was figuring out its future in digital media. “I felt I could be of use,” Brendan says. When he joined, print and digital products were completely separate, and his first project was merging the two into one.

Two years ago, with the title of “New Media” feeling antiquated, he took on the mantle of vice president of operations. “A lot of my work had become [managing] operational challenges,” he says, including outsourcing the printing of the paper, moving out the printing press and relocating the distribution center. The Union Leader now rents out space it used to use.

Regarding the future of the Union Leader, which has 110 employees, Brendan says it will require new thinking. “We’re doing digital marketing services, launching a new auto website with dealer inventory and looking at expanding our apps,” he says.

Even in a digital world, print advertising generates the bulk of the newspaper’s and its affiliated weeklies’ revenue, says Brendan.

Like publishers nationwide, the Union Leader struggles to best monetize online offerings. “That may mean changing our content strategy, that we take the highly valuable information and limit that to certain channels,” he says. “It may also mean changing our advertising strategy to offer products different from the standard Google ad sizes.”

As for online advertising, he admits, “We’re doing about as well as anyone, which is not great. The web cannot fund a local news gathering organization.” He says it takes having an audience of millions to create a profitable online model.  

Brendan says the Union Leader uses analytics to guide its coverage. “We are focusing more on reader feedback,” he says, noting the addition of an 800-person study group who provide feedback on what coverage interests them. “We’re also backing that up with real-time analytical data to see what people are reading [online],” he says. “It guides us as to where to put our limited resources.”

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