Will Sullivan's guide to global mobile, tablet & emerging tech ideas

Yellow Page Optimization & 7 reasons you should vote Will Sullivan for the Online News Association Board

The Garden Is Never Finished

When one of the smartest people I know, Matt Thompson, suggested I run for the ONA board a couple years ago and I blushed and didn’t think too much of it. I knew I wasn’t ready to take on the responsibility, didn’t have the time required and I needed to get more leadership and management experience before I could make that jump.

This year, with his nomination, I know I’m ready to step up and make a difference helping this organization. I’m in a place where I can contribute and believe it’s the perfect time in journalism history for me to step up and help lead the organization forward on one of the most mission critical platforms — emerging mobile and tablet technology. I’d appreciate your support and your vote.

It’s been amazing watching the organization grow throughout my career. I’ve been volunteering, attending and involved in ONA since the Evanston/Chicago conference back in 2003 where I worked with Rich Gordon and Erik Ulken to create the event website (I was the only photographer /photo editor and ended up only sleeping a few hours that weekend). They don’t even have the archived website from back then it was so long ago –was way before Youtube, Facebook and Foursquare.

While many other journalism organizations are having a tough time and losing strength, members and impact, ONA has grown strong and I believe the organization is at a pivotal position to lead the future of journalism. I want to do everything I can to make that a bright and fruitful future.

UnderdogI realize I’m an underdog in this race going up against six incumbents and another 16 (!) new candidates in many different disciplines and backgrounds for only seven seats. I’m the youngest candidate. I don’t live in DC where a large core of the current leaders reside; I don’t even live on one of the coasts where larger media organizations tend to set up shop. I’m introverted, socially awkward, not a very snazzy dresser and perhaps worst of all, I have a last name starting with an “S.” [As anyone knows who has reviewed ANY sort of click maps or eye tracking on web analytics, very few people read to the bottom of web pages. So those of us doomed to that fate on the candidates page won’t enjoy the same name recognition of those blessed with a YPO name (Yellow Page Optimized).]

Hopefully the voting mechanism has some sort of randomizer that mixes up display of the candidates or people are really serious about their ONA Board candidates and they can make the dozens of full page scrolls to the bottom of the list.

So I guess that’s what I’m asking for: Please vote and please read the profiles, vision statements and know who/what you’re voting for. The next two years are going to be huge for the future of journalism so the decision of who’s going to lead this organization does really matter. Especially finding people who are really participating, leading and actively sharing ideas in the conversation about the future of news.

I have outlined my seven pilars of growth for ONA below (pasted from the ONA site) that will make a major difference in the organization and journalism’s future. Please give it a read. I’d love your feedback and thoughts. Please read over all the vision statements from all the nominees before you cast your vote.

Seven Areas of Growth for ONA:

MOBILE – Expand the organization’s focus, leadership and membership to include mobile journalism as a major priority equal to that of web journalism. Many journalism organizations dragged their feet committing to the web and we cannot make this same mistake when it comes to the sweeping societal, media and technological changes mobile experiences will bring to our audiences.

INNOVATION & IDEA SHARING – Produce more regular news content and information for members (and the industry in general) through the website and social media. Content would include: Monthly spotlights showcasing member’s best practices and innovative approaches, tech tutorials and training resources, crowd-sourced recommendations and reviews on journalism tools and vendors, online journalism issue discussion and more.

ADVOCACY – Become a stronger voice and advocate in the issues affecting the future of digital journalism including: freedom of information and open data requests, net neutrality, photographer and videographer rights, digital copyright and intellectual property issues, privacy and more.

LOCALIZE – Building more regional or city-based chapters and activities — like the incredibly successful ONA DC group has done — continue supporting the chapters in major media cities, but also look for opportunities to grow membership in local regional groups outside of the coasts or tied to journalism schools

PARTNERS – Expand partnerships with other organizations both in and out of journalism to help lead the industry and benefit both memberships (such as AIGA, South by Southwest Interactive, O’Reilly Tech conferences, etc.)

MEMBERSHIP – Focus on recruiting and growing youth and diversity within the organization membership and leadership both with demographics, organization types and locations. Reach out to minority journalism groups with opportunities for partnerships, potentially discounted memberships and more.

GIVING BACK – Find opportunities to share, donate and educate others on media literacy and technological skills — particularly with youth, women and minorities through community groups and schools to help bridge some of the cultural, gender and social gaps.

My focus isn’t just limited to these topics. I have been asking members at the convention what they’d like to see in the future of the organization and received a lot of great feedback — from strategies on hosting local events, to ideas on how to cut costs/save members money for attending events, to simple things like instituting some sort of term limit for board members to help bring more fresh ideas through the leadership. If you’re attending (or even if you’re not) I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions for the organization. Holler at me at the convention, on Twitter, Facebook or email me: will @

If I don’t get the green light to join the board, that’s totally fine; I’ve been amazed by the pool of candidates and I am colleagues and friends with many of these people. It’s a fantastically talented and passionate group. I’m happy to have been nominated and that I’ve had the chance to proposed some ideas for growing the organization. Hopefully it will affect change and help the group continue to evolve.

I’ll also fully admit, I have been somewhat critical of the organization before. The conferences for a period of time time were awkward, nervous, hand-wringing events. I wasn’t the only one that felt this way. This has changed a lot and ONA conferences have become a lot more about innovation and looking forward, much less about looking back. The feedback wasn’t because I didn’t like the organization, it was because I saw the amazing potential and I wanted to see it do better. And it is doing much better now. The organization has evolved from a gaggle of journerdists to a dominate force in journalism.

But the garden is never finished.

I’m ready to get my hands dirty.

Voting is open Friday, Oct. 29 until Saturday, Nov. 13th. If you’re an ONA member, please vote. Even if it’s not for me. (Although I would appreciate your support! #Will4ONA)


  1. Rooting for you, Will! Great to see you this weekend.

  2. Thanks, Alexis! It was most excellent catching up with you too.

  3. You have the most complete, informed and thoughtful platforms I read. Rooting for you this year!!

  4. Thanks, Tammi! I appreciate your support.

  5. Good luck, Will. Rooting for you here in Michigan! ONA would be lucky to have your attention, ideas and experience.

  6. Thanks, Steve! \m/ Midwest pride! \m/