Walter Hussman was born in Texarkana, Arkansas but moved to Camden, Arkansas in 1949 and has been involved in the newspaper business in Arkansas for all of his adult life. He earned his bachelor’s degree of journalism from the University of North Carolina and his master’s degree in business administration from Columbia University. In 1970, Hussman worked as a reporter for Forbes magazine. He returned to Camden to become the general manager of The Camden News. In 1973, he moved to Hot Springs accepting the job of vice president and general manager of Palmer Newspapers, which is a division of WEHCO Media.
WEHCO Media purchased the Arkansas Democrat newspaper in 1974 and Hussman moved from Hot Springs to Little Rock to manage the new acquisition. As circulation for the Democrat newspaper dwindled, Hussman reached out to The Gazette publisher Hugh Patterson request a merger of the two papers. When Patterson refused, Hussman vowed to bring back The Democrat. He did this in the late 70’s by offering free want ads, switching to a morning distribution and bringing on new talent. By 1980 The Democrat was noted as the fastest growing newspaper in the United States.
By 1986, under Hussman’s management, The Democrat led The Gazette in Sunday distribution and was tied with them in daily circulation. In 1991, WEHCO purchased The Gazette and did what Hussman had proposed two decades prior. They combined the two papers into a new publication named the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette which Hussman still helms.
In 2007, Hussman penned an article “How to Sink a Newspaper” for the Wall Street Journal urging newspapers to stop providing free content online. He warned that the online posting of newspapers would become a “self-inflicted wound.”
Hussman is known nationwide for his David vs Goliath newspaper merger and his innovative strategy of offering free want ads to increase newspaper circulation.
Up In Your Business is a Radio Show by FlagandBanner.com
[0:00:03.2] TB: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Be sure to stay tuned till the end of the show to hear how you can get a copy of this program and other helpful documents.
Now, it's time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.
[0:00:24.5] KM: Thank you, Tim. Like Tim said, I’m Kerry McCoy and it’s time for me to get up in your business. Before we start, I want to introduce the people at the table. We have Tim Bowen, our technician who will be taking your calls and pushing the buttons. Say hello, Tim.
[0:00:37.8] TB: Hello, Tim.
[0:00:39.0] KM: Recording our show today for a podcast that will be made available next week is our technician, Jessie. Thank you, Jessie.
[0:00:45.2] J: No problem.
[0:00:45.9] KM: This show, Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy began with entrepreneurs in mind, a platform for me and entrepreneur, and a guest to pay forward our experiential knowledge in a conversational way.
As with all new endeavors, it has had some unexpected outcomes. The one I enjoy most is hearing my guest biography. How they – all my guests work hard and maneuvered and their paths of leadership in pursuit of their destinies. That business is creative much more so than people might first think.
My guest today is the epitome of hard work and creativity in his field. Mr. Walter Hussman, owner and publisher of the Arkansas-Democrat Gazette, has a magnificent career story intertwined with Arkansas history.
You will not want to miss our conversation today. You lucky listeners will absolutely learn something. After this show, you may want to get involved or be inspired to take action in your own life.
If you’re just turning in for the first time, you might be asking yourself, “What’s this lady’s story?” Well, Tim is here to tell you.
[0:01:51.4] TB: Thank you, Kerry. Over 40 years ago, with only $400 Kerry McCoy founded Arkansas Flag and Banner. During the last four decades, the business has grown and changed dramatically from door-to-door sales to telemarketing to mail order and catalog sales. Now Flag and Banner relies heavily on the internet, including our newest feature, live chatting.
Each decade required a change in sales strategy and procedures. Her business and leadership knowledge grew with time and experience, as well as the confidence to branch out into multimedia marketing that began with our non-profit dreamland ballroom, as well as our in-house publication Brave Magazine, and now this very radio show you’re listening to.
Each week on this show, you’ll hear candid conversations between her and our guests about real-world experiences on a variety of businesses and topics we hope you’ll find interesting. Kerry says that many business rules such as treat your employees well, know your profit margin, have a succession plan can be applied across most industries.
What I find encouraging is her example that hard work pays off. Did you know that for nine years while starting Flag and Banner, she supplemented her income with many part-time jobs. That just shows that persistence, perseverance and patience will prevail.
Today, Flag and Banner has 10 departments and I have 25 co-workers. It reminds us all that small businesses are the fuel of our country’s economic engine and that they empower people’s lives. If you would like to ask Kerry questions or share your experience or story, you can e-mail email@example.com.
[0:03:27.3] KM: Well, thank you Tim. My guest today is Walter Hussman. A third generation newspaper man and the publisher of the Arkansas-Democrat Gazette in Little Rock, the largest newspaper in Arkansas.
Hussman is known nationwide for his David versus Goliath win in a 17-year newspaper war between the democrat and the Arkansas Gazette. That in 1991 culminated into a merger between the two, thus creating the now known Arkansas-Democrat Gazette.
Hussman’s other notable accomplishments came during the dotcom restructuring of readership, from print to online. In 2007 for The Wall Street Journal, Hussman pinned an article, How to Sink a Newspaper, urging newspapers to stop providing free content online. He warned that the online posting of newspapers would become a self-inflicted wound.
Walter was born in Texarkana, Texas, raised in Camden, Arkansas and schooled in North Carolina and New York. Before returning to Camden, Arkansas and hiring on as the general manager of the Camden news, he cut his teeth as a reporter for Forbes Magazine.
It was in 1973 that Walter accepted a job in Hot Springs, Arkansas as Vice President and General Manager of Palmer Newspaper, a division of WEHCO Media, a family enterprise. The following year, his parent company WEHCO Media purchased the Arkansas-Democrat Newspaper and Hussman moved from Hot Springs to Little Rock to manage this new acquisition.
As circulation for his democrat newspaper dwindled, Hussman reached out to his main competitor, the Arkansas Gazette Newspaper requesting a merger of the two. When then publisher Mr. Hugh Patterson refused, Hussman vowed to work hard and revitalize his fledgling democrat newspaper.
By 1980, a mere five years after his merger request, the democrat have become the fastest-growing newspaper in the United States. By 1986 under Hussman’s management, the democrat led the gazette in Sunday distribution and was tied in daily circulation.
In 1991, WEHCO Media purchased the gazette from its more recent owner, Gannett and did what Hussman have proposed two decades earlier. They combined the two papers into a new publication named simply the Arkansas-Democrat Gazette, which Walter Hussman Jr. remains at the helm today.
It is an honor to welcome to the table a giant among newspaper men, the bright and innovative business guru, Mr. Walter Hussman. All that true, did I get anything wrong?
[0:06:10.2] WH: Just one correct –
[0:06:11.9] KM: I could see him twinge right there for me. What was it?
[0:06:14.2] WH: Just one correction. I was born in Texarkana, Arkansas, not Texas.
[0:06:19.3] KM: I think we need to change the Wikipedia page. You got a nice Wikipedia page. Let’s see. You and I have been acquaintances. Not good friends, but acquaintances for years, but I’ve never really knew anything about your life and your creativity until I started really reading your story, like I said on Wikipedia.
I am a biography nut. Anybody that does listen to this radio station or knows me knows that I’m a biography nut. Your biography was so inspiring. I don’t want to say this lightly, but the reason I really love biographies is because it takes – you’re not average and nobody is average, but you just take humans who are average people, who are just people and they do extraordinary things. You did extraordinary things. You were the David of the David and Goliath Newspaper war that went on here.
Look, he’s like, “Yes.” The three generations of newspaper men in your family, you’re the third. I read also about your father. To get to know you and for our listeners to get to know you, let’s start with your father and tell us a little bit about him.
[0:07:33.3] WH: Well, he was born in 1906 in Bland, Missouri. Their family was German and ancestors come off Germany, and a lot of Germans settled in Missouri. My grandfather was a railroad engineer. They lived in the German section of St. Louis. I remember going up there. I never really go with my grandfather, but my grandmother I did. We’d go up to St. Louis and they lived in row houses with stoops. I still remember that very vividly.
He grew up in a lower-working class neighborhood and that’s what his family was. My dad dropped out of high school and went to work out in the wheat fields of Kansas, etc. He later went back to high school and I think he was maybe 20 years old when he went back to high school.
It was so embarrassing said to him. He was in there with a bunch of 14, 15-year-old kids. He realized that he made a big mistake. Then he went on to the University of Missouri and he was studying journalism and that’s where he met my mother. She was from Texarkana and she had gone to Lindenwood College in St. Louis and then she transferred over to University of Missouri. She in the journalism school.
Anyway, they met in the journalism school and he also was in journalism school with his college roommate who is a fellow named Donald W. Reynolds.
[0:09:08.1] KM: I know. Wow.
[0:09:08.7] WH: Don Reynolds, of course is the man who has made so many incredible philanthropic gifts in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Nevada and other places, but mainly those three states. Anyway, they were life-long friends. Anyway, that’s a little bit about the story of my dad.
[0:09:26.2] KM: I think it’s interesting that a guy who dropped out of high school goes off to go to college in journalism. He obviously didn’t have a reading problem.
[0:09:34.8] WH: Yeah. No, he was a very smart fellow.
[0:09:40.1] KM: He joined the service in World War II?
[0:09:42.0] WH: Right.
[0:09:42.3] KM: At 35?
[0:09:43.3] WH: Yeah. I can’t remember his age, but a member. He came from Camden up to Little Rock and he was over at Camp Robinson. He was the public affairs officer. Then his friend Don Reynolds asked for him to be transferred over to Europe where the war was going on. Don was a publisher of the Yank Magazine, which was a publication owned by the United States Army, or United States Armed Forces. It was for the entertainment of information for the troops.
It’s the newspaper was stars and stripes, while there is also a Yank Magazine that came out less frequently. Anyway, they were co-publishers of Yank Magazine in Paris at the time. I remember going – when I was 13 years old, I got to go to Europe with my mom and dad and grandmother, and we stayed in a hotel.
My dad was telling me when he was in Paris, it had been liberated by the American forces, but there were still snipers, there were still Nazi sympathizers. Still a little bit dangerous to be in there.
[0:10:45.5] KM: I guess, Yank doesn’t stand for Yankee, or –
[0:10:48.9] WH: I’m not sure how they got it. Yeah.
[0:10:51.2] KM: Then your father-in-law is interesting. Your father met your mother in journalism in Missouri, and turns out her father was Mr. Palmer, who – Tell our listeners.
[0:11:04.3] WH: Yeah. He was from Clear Lake, Iowa and somehow ended up working for the railroad in Fort Worth. My grandmother was from Cleveland, Tennessee and I don’t know how she ended up in Fort Worth, but they met, they got married and they decided to go on their honeymoon.
They got on the train, I guess back in those days if you work for the railroad you get to ride the trains for free. Back in 1909, the railroads only ran during daylight hours, because there weren’t enough fencing in the United States. There’s a lot of livestock that roamed around and the train didn’t want to run into some cattle or anything.
They stopped the first night in Texarkana. They got off the train and they went into town and apparently met some people, had a great time and they thought, “Gosh, let’s stay here a couple nights and there’d be another train coming through and we can get on the train going down our honeymoon down to Florida, or Cuba, or wherever they were going.
Anyway, they liked Texarkana so much they decided to settle there. He went to work for one of the newspapers. There were a number of newspapers in Texarkana then. He eventually got to buy into it and eventually got to buy all of it, and eventually ended up being the only newspaper in Texarkana.
[0:12:22.4] KM: That’s where you were born and that was your grandfather?
[0:12:24.4] WH: Yeah, that’s my grandfather, C.E. Palmer.
[0:12:26.4] KM: Well, he sure did turn that little newspaper into a media giant, didn’t he?
[0:12:32.1] WH: Yeah. Actually it’s interesting. Incidentally, tonight the Texarkana Chamber of Commerce is having their annual dinner and they always give an award I guess to the leading citizen they call the C.E. Palmer award. We’re going down to Texarkana. I’m going down with my daughter and son tonight. We’re going to go down there for that.
But anyway, yeah he actually was – my grandfather was a real entrepreneur and he was buying oil leases and things over in El Dorado. The story is and I don’t know how accurate this is, but the story that was handed down the family is that he bought up a whole bunch of land leases around the El Dorado, the smack over.
H.L. Hunt bought a bunch of them too, but H.L. Hunt’s was on one side of the railroad track and my grandfather’s were on the other and it turns out on the side, H.L. Hunt got, well that’s where the oil was. He ended up in the newspaper business instead of the oil business.
[0:13:34.4] KM: Well, he did a fine job whatever it was. I just was so impressed with your legacy of your family, the entrepreneurs on both sides of your family. I’m sorry, what?
[0:13:45.4] WH: I was going to say one other thing interesting about my grandfather is some people wanted to buy the Texarkana paper and they actually – he sold it to them. I guess, he touched their offer in such a fantastic price.
Anyway, they gave him some cash and they gave him some notes, I guess because they’re paying such a high price, he will take some notes. Well, along came the depression and they defaulted on the notes. He ended up with the ownership of the newspaper.
[0:14:13.8] KM: He got other newspapers after that too, didn’t he?
[0:14:16.0] WH: Yeah. We literally ended up backing the newspaper industry by default literally.
[0:14:21.8] KM: Literally. He bought Hot Springs Newspaper?
[0:14:24.7] WH: He bought paper in Hot Springs and helped –
[0:14:26.0] KM: Camden?
[0:14:26.9] WH: Camden, El Dorado and Magnolia. Of course, Texarkana was his hometown.
[0:14:34.5] KM: When did he decided to call it WEHCO?
[0:14:36.9] WH: He didn’t.
[0:14:37.6] KM: Oh. That was you?
[0:14:38.8] WH: No. That was my dad.
[0:14:39.9] KM: That was your dad.
[0:14:40.6] WH: Because it’s W-E-H-C-O stands for Walter E. Hussman and Company.
[0:14:44.6] KM: I was going to ask you what WEHCO stood for. That was in the last hour, but now we know. I’ve always wondered what that stood for.
[0:14:52.1] WH: That didn’t come along until like 1973.
[0:14:55.3] KM: That’s smart. You were living in New York City and then you returned to Camden, Arkansas to manage the Camden news that we just talked about your grandfather had bought. Did you feel like you were going backwards, or were just –
[0:15:05.2] WH: Well, I’ll tell you the story about that is I love living in New York. I was having a great time. I was single and really enjoying everything up there. Had two older sisters and either one of them were involved in the business, and it looked like if I didn’t get involved in the business, they were going to probably sell the business.
My dad told me and said, “Look, I want you to do what you want to do. If you want to be a writer, if you want to stay in New York, that’s fine. But if you don’t want to move back to Arkansas, we’d probably need to sell the business because you’re like 23 and I’m like 63.” He said, “You know, you might consider coming back to Arkansas and trying the business. If you don’t like it, you can always go back to New York and get another job. But if we sell the business, that option is not available anymore.” That makes sense. Yeah, it was quite an adjustment coming from New York to Camden.
[0:16:06.1] KM: Yeah. Was Benny with you already, your wife?
[0:16:08.5] WH: No, I hadn’t met her yet.
[0:16:10.2] KM: Because I was going to say that would’ve been a hard sale.
[0:16:14.9] WH: But anyway, I didn’t come back to run the Camden News. I came back just to work for my dad and try to learn everything I could from him. Actually, we had a situation where we needed to get a new general manager for the newspaper in Camden.
My dad said, “Okay, this will be a good assignment. You go out and hire a general manager and you get who you think we ought to hire and then I’ll interview him and see if you made the right choice, etc.” I was having a tough time finding somebody to run the newspaper. My dad said, “I’m going to give you an extra incentive. You’re going to run the paper until you find somebody.” I said, “Okay.”
Well, I tell you what, that was a turning point in my life, because before I had a journalism degree and undergraduate, I had a business degree at a graduate school and my first job was working for magazine writing. I really wanted to be in the news and editorial side. I thought, “That was the creative side.” I thought business was probably just pretty cut and dry.
When I started running the newspaper in Camden, even though it’s a small newspaper, I couldn’t believe how creative running a business could be. How you’re limited in the amount of resources you had, whether that were time or money or personnel or whatever, and you had to accomplish certain things with limited resources. Being able to do that really required some creativity, a lot of creativity. I really got, “Hey, maybe this is more creative than even the news and journalism side.” That’s how I really got interested in the business side.
[0:17:55.8] KM: I love that story. This is a great place to take a break. When we come back, we’ll continue our conversation with Mr. Walter Hussman, publisher of the Arkansas-Democrat Gazette in Little Rock, Arkansas.
We’ll get him to tell us, which I can’t wait for everybody to hear the story about another creative strategy he has, how he saved the democrat newspaper and led to the merger with the Arkansas Gazette Newspaper into what is now known as the Arkansas-Democrat Gazette, and about how he successful navigated his newspaper through the 1990s dotcom boom that threatened his newspaper industry and bankrupted many of them. Last, if we have time we’ll talk about fake news.
[0:18:31.4] TB: You’re listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. If you missed any part of the show, a podcast will be made available next week at flagandbanner.com’s website. If you prefer to listen on iTunes, YouTube or SoundCloud, you’ll find those links there as well. Lots of listening options. We’ll be right back.
[0:19:16.3] KM: The Beatles. You can’t hardly beat The Beatles, can you? You’re listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I’m speaking today with Walter Hussman, publisher of the Arkansas-Democrat Gazette Newspaper in Little Rock, Arkansas.
We’re fixing again the nuts and bolts this next segment. Before the break, you had accepted a newspaper job in Camden. You had realized that it was creative to be an entrepreneur. Then you took a job, you moved to Hot Springs. I guess, you found somebody to run the Camden newspaper and so you moved to Hot Springs. Were there not very long?
[0:19:51.0] WH: There about a year.
[0:19:52.9] KM: During this time, I think WEHCO was created maybe?
[0:19:57.1] WH: Yeah. They used that for the name of a holding company.
[0:20:00.7] KM: Yeah. About that time, they started a holding company where you – the umbrella to put all of these newspapers under. You became the preside of the Palmer Newspaper in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
[0:20:14.8] WH: Vice President and General Manager.
[0:20:16.5] KM: Vice President and General Manager. Then, Palmer was your mother’s maiden name.
[0:20:21.8] WH: That’s right.
[0:20:23.4] KM: WEHCO then published the Arkansas-Democrat, or published The Democrat in Little Rock. You decided to move to Little Rock.
[0:20:33.7] WH: Yeah. What happened is they put the Arkansas-Democrat on the market for sale. I was interested in it a lot more than my dad was. Because at that time, the gazette was such a strong newspaper. It had really doubled the circulation daily of The Democrat. The Democrat had been declining for a number of years.
At one time after 1957, The Democrat actually had slightly more circulation than the gazette. The gazette was a morning newspaper. It was a really good newspaper. The Democrat was a really – had watched its expenses so closely. They weren’t so focused on revenue, in my opinion.
Anyway, so when we look at The Democrat, it was clearly a turnaround situation. It had been profitable, but it lost money – not a lot of money, but it lost money the last four, five years before we bought it.
[0:21:30.0] KM: You thought it was losing money, because of squeezing itself?
[0:21:33.3] WH: Yeah. We lost so much market share to their competition. Being an afternoon newspaper was a problem for them too. Anyway, so what appealed to me was it looked like a turnaround. I remember being in the business school thinking it would really be fun someday to business and turn it around. That would be a great – a lot of fun and really interesting and being quite an accomplishment if you’re able to do that. I didn’t realize it would be quite successful.
[0:22:03.3] KM: Yeah. You and I are grinning at each other. I remember it. It was a war. They called it the newspaper war and was probably the most aggressive newspaper war in the United States.
[0:22:14.7] WH: Well, it really didn’t start out that way. Really, we tried to reduce expenses a lot in the newspaper. I remember when we bought the paper, there was a union organizing attempt in both The Democrat and the gazette. The first thing we needed to do is try to win that election and we won 31 to 15. I still remember all these years later. The gazette won their election 50 to 50. That tells you a little bit incident in event of a tie, management always wins. The interesting thing, they had a 100 people that voted in their news room and we had 31 to 15.
[0:22:53.6] KM: What does that tell you?
[0:22:55.3] WH: They had a news room that was double our size. Obviously, there was a lot more news and a lot more information in the gazette. At first, we just tried to be more clever, do more local news. Might be just edit the paper in a more interesting way than the gazette. We tried to be a compliment to the gazette. We knew the gazette was dominant. We try to be a compliment. We try to be profitable. That strategy didn’t work.
After about three years, my dad had said – when we bought it he said, “This is a long shot.” We got to have enough business discipline to realize after three years if this doesn’t work, we need to realize it and not throw any good money after bad.
[0:23:39.4] KM: You’ve come to your three-year mark.
[0:23:40.7] WH: We come to the three-year mark and it was discouraging, because we had made so much progress. For example, our production cost per page had gone from about a $100 per page and labor to about $20 a page and labor.
[0:23:54.9] KM: Is that from automation?
[0:23:56.6] WH: Yeah. Yeah, definitely some automation. Some of the unions had decertified, so we had more flexible work rules. But we were still losing money, we were losing market share. At that point, we tried to throw in the towel. That’s when we went to the gazette and said, “Why don’t we do a joint operating agreement, which was an exemption from any trust laws to allow two newspapers to command their business operations?”
Our proposal was we’ll still put out a newspaper in the afternoon, you put out one in the afternoon, but you run everything. You run all the business operations. Only one company to come to to buy newspaper advertising and that would be the demand company and we’d take 10% of the profits and give you 90% of the profits, etc.
[0:24:41.5] KM: Were you offering the paper cheap?
[0:24:44.7] WH: Yeah. Oh, yeah. I mean, we were not –
[0:24:46.8] KM: Why do you think they didn’t take it?
[0:24:48.3] WH: They thought we were going to go out of business. That’s what I think.
[0:24:50.6] KM: They were just going to wait it out.
[0:24:52.5] WH: I can’t blame them really. I think they were probably – they were right. We were about to go out of business. We thought about shutting the newspaper down.
[0:25:02.1] KM: I’ve read this two different ways and I don’t know which one is right. The Democrat, the one you own was an afternoon paper and had half the circulation as the gazette, which was the morning paper. Which one was liberal and which one was the conservative?
[0:25:14.7] WH: The gazette was more liberal and democrat when we bought it was not really conservative. I mean, it was middle of the road, I guess. Because we were more conservative, the editorial page became more conservative.
[0:25:30.7] KM: When Hugh Patterson, the managing, or the publisher of the gazette turned down – declined your offer, what made you decide that you were going to just go for it? You did three things that really turned your paper around.
[0:25:44.2] WH: Yeah. Well, basically we said, “At this point, we’re looking at shutting the paper down. We got legal opinions about what – how do we do this. What are the liabilities we’ll have to pay off, etc.” We did all notes on the paper, which we would have to pay off.
[0:26:01.5] KM: How old are you right now when this was going on?
[0:26:03.5] WH: This was going on, see I was 27 when we bought the paper. I was like 31.
[0:26:08.5] KM: He’s a child. Okay.
[0:26:11.4] WH: Basically, we sent out and figured – my dad said, “You know, we’ve always been successful. We’ve always been successful publishing newspapers.” We got into the radio business in the 1930s; we were always successful there. We got into television business 1950s and we’ve been successful there. We got into cable television business 1964, we’ve been –
In the history of our company, this is a pretty spectacular failure. I thought, “You know what? If we’re going to fail at this, let’s just don’t whimper out. Let’s say we gave it everything we could. Let’s see if there’s any other strategy that would work.”
We said, we really haven’t tried to put out as good a newspaper as the gazette. We tried to edit it more cleverly and emphasize more local news and things like that. We are not giving people as good a product. We don’t have as much news in the paper, we don’t have as much advertising in the paper. Is there something that could work where we would actually try to do that?
At that point, we went around. I took four, five places in the country and one in Canada, where the number two newspaper had pursued a successful strategy to try to catch up with the number one newspaper. We went to the Dallas where the afternoon paper become a morning paper. We went to Chattanooga where the number two newspaper become the number one newspaper and mainly about putting a lot more news in their paper than the other paper. We went to Winnipeg, Canada which it had gone with free one ads for classified advertising, so there’d be more readership for the classified ads in the competition.
[0:27:48.2] KM: You took notes on all of that.
[0:27:49.5] WH: Yeah. We amalgamated a strategy and thought, “Why don’t we try to do all of it at one time? If this fails, we can say at least we tried everything.”
[0:28:00.2] KM: Be an epic failure.
[0:28:01.2] WH: Yeah.
[0:28:02.7] KM: You did. You offered free one ads, first time I ever heard of it. You switched to a morning distribution and you brought on new talent, so you’d have better content.
[0:28:13.7] WH: Right. Yeah.
[0:28:14.8] KM: You’ve done all three of those from your research.
[0:28:16.6] WH: Right. From looking at what had worked in other markets.
[0:28:20.7] KM: Wow. That’s really impressive. It only took five years, I think for The Democrat to be noted as the fastest-growing newspaper in the United States and you tied with the gazette.
[0:28:33.5] WH: Well, yeah. We were not tied with them in circulation by night. Been five years, but we were gaining. We were gaining on them. I tell you, the most amazing part of that whole story is our classified advertising revenue is in1978 before we went to free one ads for $796,000 a year. Five years later, our classified advertising revenues were over 5 million dollars a year.
[0:28:59.2] KM: You’re giving away for free.
[0:29:01.7] WH: I know. Everybody says, “How could that happen?” We only gave the ads away free to individuals who had for sale by owner, if they want to sell a pet, they want to sell a car, if they want to sell a boat. All of a sudden –
[0:29:16.2] KM: Garage sales.
[0:29:16.9] WH: Yeah. This is what they did in Winnipeg, Canada. All of a sudden, we had a lot more cars for sale in our newspaper than the gazette had cars for sale in their newspaper. Now the car dealers and they wanted to start running with ours, and of course the car dealers paid for their advertising.
[0:29:35.2] KM: Was that unexpected?
[0:29:36.7] WH: No. That was the whole plan.
[0:29:38.3] KM: You knew it.
[0:29:39.1] WH: Well, no. We knew that’s what – it would work like, if it was successful. We didn’t know if it would be successful. In fact, the paper in Colorado Springs several years later came down and they copied everything we did. They copied our TV ads, they copied how we man the phones and everything and it never worked in Colorado Springs. Well, I don’t know, but it worked here in Little Rock.
[0:30:03.3] KM: You were willing to share all of this with a fellow newspaper.
[0:30:08.5] WH: Newspapers have been great all over the country, because typically they don’t compete with one another. They’re in different markets. The newspaper is always pretty much shared anything they’ve done with other fellow newspaper ownership.
[0:30:20.3] KM: I thought there was a time and I may be completely wrong about this. I thought there was a time when there was some sort of rules in place that no one person could have a monopoly in media, and that that was deregulated maybe during the Clinton years? You know what I’m thinking, talking about?
[0:30:35.8] WH: Yeah. Well, there is the cross-ownership rules. Basically, you couldn’t own a newspaper and television station in the same market.
[0:30:42.4] KM: WEHCO did. Or it’s different markets?
[0:30:46.1] WH: Certain markets were grandfathered in. Like we owned a newspaper and television station in Texarkana. Actually that we got grandfathered in, and then later they decided, “Well, we shouldn’t own it.” We actually went to court and we won that in court and of this circuit, so we were able to keep our television station.
[0:31:04.8] KM: Now those rule – what do you call that rule?
[0:31:07.6] WH: Cross-ownership.
[0:31:08.8] KM: Now those cross-ownerships don’t apply anymore, right?
[0:31:11.5] WH: Yeah. That’s they’re actively considering allowing newspapers and TV stations to be owned by the same company.
[0:31:18.6] KM: The reason you couldn’t have cross-ownership is because they didn’t want any one person to have too big of a voice for propaganda?
[0:31:24.9] WH: Yeah. Well, that was one of the main reasons. Also, if you owned a television station and a newspaper at the same market, it would have an inordinate amount of advertisement revenue.
[0:31:34.8] KM: Control over the media.
[0:31:36.6] WH: Yeah, control what you charge for advertising.
[0:31:39.7] KM: Well, I see. I never thought of it like that. I thought of it as more like you’d have too much control over what you told them.
[0:31:49.1] WH: That’s true. That was the major reason for the rule.
[0:31:51.9] KM: Propaganda that you could sway public opinion and you would never write about yourself if you were a crook, because you owned everything. That’s what I would do. It’s like, don’t tell anything about the family in the newspaper.
When you had this great success and you decided to turn it into the Arkansas-Democrat Gazette, how did you depict that name? Arkansas-Democrat Gazette. How did you decide to just merge those names?
[0:32:19.2] WH: Because the gazette had a great tradition in Arkansas, had been a great newspaper, is the oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi, one-bullet surprises. It just didn’t feel like it was right to let the gazette name go away.
[0:32:32.6] KM: You added the democrat to it.
[0:32:33.9] WH: Yeah.
[0:32:35.0] KM: Right before you bought it, WEHCO was big. WEHCO Media was a big company in Arkansas, but Gannett bought the gazette, the Arkansas Gazette, and they are a nationwide big company. Were you shaking in your boots now?
[0:32:56.8] WH: Yeah. When they came to town. You say we’re a big company. We had about 60 million dollars a year in revenue. I think Gannett had like 2 billion dollars a year in revenue.
[0:33:06.3] TB: Yeah. That’s like really big.
[0:33:08.9] WH: We were pretty small compared to them.
[0:33:11.1] KM: Yeah, compared to them.
[0:33:12.3] WH: Yeah, they made it now. When Al Neuharth came to Little Rock he said, “We’re here to use our considerable resources to prevail in the newspaper market here.”
[0:33:22.4] KM: They ended up suing you over anti-trust laws?
[0:33:24.8] WH: No. Gannett did. That was a suit filed by the previous owner, the Patterson, Hugh Patterson.
[0:33:32.3] KM: Oh, okay. You won that lawsuit.
[0:33:34.3] WH: Yeah. What happened is that we were gaining market share with our new strategy, morning newspaper, free one ads and all these things. I know it must’ve been frustrating to the owners of the gazette because at one time they could’ve had 90% of the whole thing to themselves.
Now, what I think frustrated them the most was in 1984, we finally gained enough market share where we had some profitable months. Okay, so that was big because we lost a lot of money doing the turnaround in ’79, ’80. Every year we lost less and less and less money. In ’84, in April of 1984 we made a profit of over $14,000 after depreciation, after interest, after tax, everything.
[0:34:23.0] KM: That’s not very much.
[0:34:24.0] WH: I know it’s not much, but when you’ve lost a lot of money it seemed great. We printed up these buttons and said, “We’re in the black.” I thought, “What are we going to do with $14,000? That’s not much compared to –”
We took it and we divided it by 352 employees and we gave everybody a check for like $40 or something and said, “We’re going to take our first profit and give it to our employees.”
[0:34:46.7] KM: That’s awesome. Did the owner of the paper when you began to take over market shares, did the owner of the Arkansas Gazette come to you and say, “Okay, remember that offer you made me a while back?”
[0:34:57.9] WH: No.
[0:34:58.9] KM: He didn’t. His ego was too big.
[0:35:00.4] WH: Now that was in April of ’84 when we made a profit in December of ’84, they filed an anti-trust suit saying we were trying to drive them out of business. When we finally got all the records in the trust suit, we had about 36% of the revenue and they had about 64% revenue. Yet, we were trying to drive them out of business. It didn’t make sense. It didn’t make sense to the jury either, and that’s when we won the case in ’86.
[0:35:24.1] KM: They sold to the Gannet to Gannet and then you still continued to grow, even though Gannett had deep, deep pockets. They finally – how many years did they stay?
[0:35:34.1] WH: A little under five years.
[0:35:36.3] KM: They just decided to give it to you.
[0:35:38.5] WH: Well, I’ll tell you what happened for the gazette under – under the previous owners, the gazette had been profitable every year. In fact, I remember at the trial we introduced an exhibit and the gazette had never lost money in a single year, even during The Great Depression.
[0:35:55.1] KM: Really?
[0:35:56.1] WH: Pretty remarkable.
[0:35:56.8] KM: That is remarkable.
[0:35:57.8] WH: But once it was sold to Gannett, the strategy was just a scourged earth, all out, we’re going to become the only paper in town. Our losses went way up too, to try to match them.
With that going on, the gazette starting losing money and more importantly we continue to gain market share. They lost market share. Until about 1988, a couple of years later and they got so frustrated, they cut their subscription price from like $2 to 85 cents a week for every single one of their subscribers. If we had cut our price like they had, we would lose so much money we would’ve gone out of business. We couldn’t do that.
In the final analysis over the five years they had the paper, they lost more money every year than they lost the previous year. They lost market share every year with the previous year. One of the things I learned from this whole experience is think about profitability. You’re either making money, or you’re losing money. Think about market share. You’re either gaining market share, or you’re losing market share.
There are four different scenarios you can find yourself in. You can be making money and gaining market share, that’s the best of the four. You can be making money and you could lose market share and you’re going to keep your business open, because it’s still profitable. I don’t know how long it’s going to be profitable, but it’s profitable. Now you could be losing – just mentioned it, be profitable losing market share. You can be losing money and gaining market share, which is –
[0:37:42.2] KM: The growth mode.
[0:37:43.1] WH: That’s where The Democrat was, and it’s still worth continuing to operate, because you can say, “If we keep getting market share, eventually we’re going to be profitable if it makes sense.” The only scenario that is a lose-lose is if you’re losing money and you’re losing market share. If you’re in that situation, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a newspaper, or –
I remember Exxon got into the office products business in the 70s. They lost money, they lost market share. It don’t matter how big you are. If you lose money and you lose market share, you’re not going to be – you’re not going to survive. That’s the situation Gannett found themselves in with the gazette.
[0:38:21.3] KM: I love that. That’s a really well-thought out way to think about that. That’s good advice for all small business owners. When you decided in 1991, or you didn’t decide, when they decided to sell it to you in 1991, it was the same year that President Bill Clinton – Governor Bill Clinton announced just candidacy for the presidency.
[0:38:41.9] WH: He announced he was running for president the day they sold the paper to us.
[0:38:46.3] KM: What a day.
[0:38:47.3] WH: Because I was sitting up in the 22nd floor, which is now the Stevens building, waiting when the phones connected – as soon as the wire transfer hit the bank, they would tell us and then we’re closed. I could hear while we’re waiting on the phone for an hour or something, Bill Clinton was down there at the old state house announcing he was running for president.
[0:39:08.1] KM: What an exciting time. Some critics didn’t like it.
[0:39:12.3] WH: No. I’m sure they didn’t, because the gazette had been a big supporter of Bill Clinton’s. We had never endorsed Clinton.
[0:39:21.7] KM: Oh, really?
[0:39:22.9] WH: It wasn’t anything personal. It’s just Clinton was more liberal and we were more conservative. It’s more about political philosophy.
[0:39:32.3] KM: Walter, you successful navigated your newspaper through the 1990 dotcom boom that threatened your newspaper industry big time and bankrupted a lot of newspapers across America. At the end of the 20th century, you led – your paper survived that huge newspaper war, and now it’s the beginning of the 21st century and you’ve got this dotcom. I don’t know how you don’t have an ulcer.
It’s like, “Whoo. Made it through that. All right, here comes the dotcom boom. What am I going to do?” You wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal and you said – you titled it How to Sink a Newspaper? You were urging newspapers to stop providing free content online and warned that free online posting of newspaper would become a self-inflicted wound. People listened.
[0:40:32.1] WH: Really, more than the dotcom boom, it was the fact that when the internet came along a lot of newspapers thought, “Gosh, this is going to be great. We’ll put all off our news up on our website. All these people read it and we’ll sell advertising and we won’t have the cost of printing, we won’t have the cost of the carrier’s distributing the paper. Gosh, this is going to be an economic bonanza to us.”
Actually, we did the same thing in 1999. We started to put all of our news up for free. After a while, I went to our people and said, “We seem to be getting a lot of traffic on our website, but we don’t seem to be getting much revenue.” They said, “Yeah, that’s right.” I said, “Well, why?” They said, “Well, we aren’t just – we got so much competition.” I said, “Well, let’s just raise our rates.” I mean, newspapers typically would raise their rates if they need.
They said, “We tried that, but there are literally thousands of places people can go now to get information and get news, advertising, etc.” It didn’t work to raise your rates. I would go to a civic club meeting, or I’d go somewhere in town and I’d see somebody and then say, “Yeah, I love that website of yours. I get all that news and it’s free, and I used to subscribe to your newspaper. I really appreciate you’re doing that.” I thought, “What are we doing here?” I mean, we’re losing these subscribers.
During the newspaper competition we fought blood, sweat and tears for every subscriber we could get. Now we’re just encouraging them to leave the paper. I thought, “Look, someday maybe this online thing will be an economic bonanza, but it’s not now. We’re just going to stop giving our content away free.” We did that in 2001.
That’s when people thought we were crazy for doing it. “You’re just living in yester-year, etc.” From 2001 to 2011, the Arkansas-Democratic Gazette lost no print circulation. In during that 10 years, Atlanta, Dallas, places like that, they lost between a quarter and a third, or more of their circulation, their print circulation, because they were giving it away free.
That’s when I was on the board of the associated press from 2000 to 2009, and I wrote that article in 2007 saying, “This is just – doesn’t make an economic sense to give all your news away free.” The publisher, The New York Times even though they’re giving their news away free said, “I’m concerned we’re raising a whole generation of people who don’t even expect to pay anything to get news.”
I think after that 2007 article, well it didn’t happen right away. But over the next few years, more and more papers came to recognize that. Now most newspapers do have a charge for content, a lot of them including ours now, give you a few articles a month for free. After that, you’re asked to pay.
[0:43:32.6] KM: Well, how are you going to pay your staff?
[0:43:34.8] WH: Well, I’ll tell you what, it’s even become more critical today because there’s been a big drop in advertising. In all mass media, newspapers, magazines, radio, television –
[0:43:46.9] KM: I think that that’s going to come back around and I’ll tell you, because at Arkansas Flagg and Banner, we were dotcom in 1995. We got flagandbanner.com in 1995. We were part of that bell curve. We came right out of the gate, got to the top, got lots and lots of competition, got knocked off the top. Now to stay on the top on the internet, or to even get seen is so incredibly expensive. Google is making money hand over first, and we are going back to print.
[0:44:22.9] WH: Well good. Good for you.
[0:44:24.9] KM: You’re like this. We did a survey of our customers not too long ago, because I have a guy in my marketing department who kept saying, “Newspaper is dying. Newspaper is dying.” He even said – we were all arguing about print, newspaper, digital marketing. He said, “Let’s do a survey.” He put together a survey and 50% of our customers read the newspaper. It’s amazing.
[0:44:53.8] WH: Yeah, they do.
[0:44:55.5] KM: If your demographics that you sell to are 40 plus, they’re still reading the paper.
[0:45:02.5] WH: Yeah, absolutely.
[0:45:05.1] KM: I never used to read the paper, but now I do. I enjoy it. I enjoy sitting down and reading the paper.
[0:45:09.9] WH: Well, and we’ve been able to maintain generally the quality of our paper. We’ve had had some reductions, but nothing like most newspapers have. A lot of people tell me they travel around the country and they can’t believe what’s happened to other newspapers, the quality has gone down so dramatically.
[0:45:26.3] KM: I like it that it’s not so big. Your paper is small enough that it’s easy – to me, it’s bite size. You can read it and it’s – I really like the size of your paper right now. Your father, so I think for everybody out there the cheapest form of advertising there is print, to me.
[0:45:43.2] WH: Great.
[0:45:44.1] KM: I’m serious. I know it’s hard to measure, because you can go right on your Googld Adwords and you can say, “These are how many people clicked on the word I bought. This is the graph and this is the statistics and this is the data.” You can’t do that with print.
[0:45:57.1] WH: Yeah, that’s right.
[0:45:58.2] KM: I know ad agencies are like, “Well, I can’t measure it.” Well, Google has gotten so expensive. They’re about to price themselves up. I don’t know what’s going to happen with all that.
I love your father. I told you at the beginning of the hour, I really like your father. You like one of your father’s quotes, and you said your father’s philosophy about newspaper that you still believe in, I think. He said, “A newspaper has a number of constituencies. Among those are readers, advertisers, employees, creditors and stock holders.”
If a newspaper and its publisher always keep those constituencies in that order, readers first, advertisers second, employees third, creditors fourth and shareholders last, then the newspaper will do well journalistically and financially in the interest of all constituencies will be well-served. That is flipped from the way many CEOs operate today. They put their stockholders –
[0:47:01.8] WH: First.
[0:47:03.2] KM: That’s exactly right. That was very –
[0:47:05.2] WH: That’s why a lot of them are doing so poorly, because that doesn’t work. In a lot of businesses, yeah you say we’re going to put stockholders first and that’s why we’re going into business. It doesn’t work in the newspaper business.
[0:47:19.5] KM: I don’t think it necessarily works ever.
[0:47:21.8] WH: Well, you know most good businesses put their customers first. Our customers are our readers and then our advertisers.
[0:47:28.1] KM: Starbucks puts their employees right up there.
[0:47:31.6] WH: Yeah. Southwest Airlines says their employees gone first. You pick and work where you find, but this is what’s worked for us.
[0:47:39.4] KM: Who’s the man that owns Starbucks? Oh, gosh. I should’ve known this. Anyway, he has had his stockholders come to him over and over and over and say, “You need to cut these expenses. You need to change your philosophy, because we got to do – we’ve got to make more money for the shareholders.” He just holds his ground and will not budge on that.
[0:48:05.6] WH: Well, that’s good. It may stick into some core values.
[0:48:08.1] KM: Everybody loves Starbucks. Acquisition seems to be the name of the game from the newspaper business.
[0:48:14.5] WH: It used to be.
[0:48:15.5] KM: Is it not anymore?
[0:48:16.9] WH: Well, there’s probably only one company out there that’s buying these papers today. That’s a company called Gatehouse. Warren Buffet was behind this.
[0:48:26.3] KM: I was about to say Warren Buffet. Isn’t he?
[0:48:28.2] WH: Not anymore. Most people are selling newspapers not behind him, because the business is really a challenge.
[0:48:38.5] KM: It’s a very hard business. When I read about your family’s business, through the three generations, I realized it’s a very challenging hard, fluid occupation.
[0:48:52.3] WH: It is. An amazing thing is we’ve got a fourth generation now; my son and my daughter both work at the newspaper.
[0:48:59.5] KM: Congratulations.
[0:49:00.3] WH: I tell them, I said, “You got to realize this is really – it’s a lot tough for business. I find that tougher than when we were competing against the gazette, but it’s a lot tougher business than it used to be.” They both said, “That’s fine. We want to work with the family business.”
[0:49:14.0] KM: Everything old is new again. When I told my son, I got to tell the story on Matthew. When I told my son that you owned cable companies and newspapers, he said, “That’s like retro business.” He said, “No young people read the newspaper or watch cable anymore.”
[0:49:40.0] WH: Yeah. But you know, a lot of those people who watch Netflix and things, they do it over high-speed internet, which goes over our cable television.
[0:49:48.6] KM: There you go. Oh, look. He’s writing me a note. You can say it out loud, because I can’t read while you write. King of the old media, that’s what he calls you. We got you a new name, Walter. King of the old media. I like it. How much do you read every day?
[0:50:10.9] WH: How much do I read?
[0:50:11.6] KM: (Affirmative) Mm-hmm.
[0:50:12.5] WH: Well, I read the Democrat Gazette, read the Wall Street –
[0:50:15.5] KM: Front to cover, front to back.
[0:50:17.0] WH: Well, I don’t read every article, but I look at every headline and I read a lot of the articles and I read the – look at the Wall Street Journal and say why I go through the headlines and read articles, New York Times.
[0:50:28.1] KM: What do you think about fake news?
[0:50:30.5] WH: I think there is fake news out there. It’s like sexual harassment. What is the real definition –
[0:50:38.9] KM: What’s the definition?
[0:50:40.1] WH: Yeah, of fake news. I mean, there is real fake news where people are intentionally fabricating things and putting them out there and hopefully gullible people will believe them. Then there is people who just slant the news and that’s being called fake news. That really ought to be called distorted news instead of fake news.
The troubling thing to me is a lot of people in journalism today are abandoning the concept of trying to be objective and impartial. That’s really important for the news media to continue to be impartial and objective.
[0:51:13.1] KM: Well, there’s whole networks that are not impartial and objective.
[0:51:15.7] WH: Some people say – some journalists say, “Well, it’s impossible to be objective. Why should we try?” I say, “Well, tell that to your readers. Do they want to hear that, or do they want to hear, ‘Hey, I know it’s really hard to be objective, but I’m going to do as good a job as I possibly can to be objective.’”
[0:51:31.2] KM: Now in defense of those reporters that said that readers do seem to go and want to find – want to read stuff that they can – they identify with. They don’t want to read the opposite opinion of what they read.
[0:51:46.1] WH: I think that’s true, but they like to read opinions that they agree with, or they avoid opinions they disagree with. I think people still want news that’s objective, so they can make up their own mind.
[0:51:57.1] KM: I do, but I’m not sure the world does. I have a gift for you, because Tim – right there Tim. Say hello.
[0:52:05.3] TB: Hello.
[0:52:06.2] KM: Tim has talked to your –
[0:52:09.6] TB: Son and daughter-in-law. Well, actually me and a co-worker Jeff that’s friends with them.
[0:52:15.1] WH: Okay.
[0:52:15.3] KM: This is from Arkansas Flag and Banner. We heard that you love flags and that you love your grandchildren, so we have a book of our flag, the story of our flag. That’s from Arkansas Flag and Banner’s showroom.
[0:52:26.2] WH: Cool. Coloring book.
[0:52:28.1] KM: Then that’s a coloring book. Then this one is an actual book that I send for you for coming on the radio show. Thank you very much. I didn’t realize you loved flags. They told us you love flags.
[0:52:37.5] WH: Yeah. Absolutely.
[0:52:39.4] KM: They sent a gag joke, a gag gift. They actually –
[0:52:44.9] TB: We left that at the –
[0:52:46.5] KM: We did?
[0:52:47.0] TB: Yeah.
[0:52:47.3] KM: Okay. They sent a gag gift for you. We left at the last place. Okay.
[0:52:52.0] TB: You can ask your son about it.
[0:52:56.3] KM: Who’s our guest next week?
[0:52:57.7] TB: Next week is going to be Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Trey Reid.
[0:53:03.5] KM: Well, he’s going to have to run the show, because I don’t know anything about game and fish.
[0:53:08.5] WH: You got to wait to –
[0:53:10.1] KM: Study up. I learned all that about you.
[0:53:12.6] TB: I think I know someone that might know a little bit about gaming and fishing.
[0:53:16.4] KM: That would be my husband.
[0:53:18.3] TB: Is a hunter and probably deals with the game and fish people a lot.
[0:53:21.9] KM: Oh, my God.
[0:53:22.1] TB: Maybe he could come interview.
[0:53:24.2] KM: He should come interview. He really should. He’s avid. What will be interesting about Trey Reid is he’s going to talk about Arkansas, the natural state and how beautiful the state is. That I can relate to. I have probably been on every river in the State of Arkansas. I think just about – it’s a beautiful state. He can tell us all about the beautiful spots. Even if you just want to go sit out there with your outdoors man.
Anything you want to share with our listeners before we leave, Walter?
[0:53:57.3] WH: I think we covered a lot of ground.
[0:54:01.8] KM: We did. Will you come back?
[0:54:03.3] WH: Sure. Absolutely. I think people need to know though that newspapers are in a really difficult position. They’re very challenging. The digital revolution is amazing, because it’s so much – it’s a lot less expensive to distribute things that are done digitally.
[0:54:28.8] KM: The employees are very expensive.
[0:54:30.3] WH: Yeah. There is no doubt about that. Some people at Harvard said, they thought there was four times in human history – three times in human history when there was a major revolution in text, T-E-X-T, things that are –
[0:54:47.1] KM: One is the printing press.
[0:54:48.5] WH: Well, the first one was when the first written language was created. Up until that, everything was verbal. Then the next one was centuries – well, a couple thousands of centuries later when at 1440 when Gutenberg created the printing press. When that happened, the cost of replicating text dropped by over 99%, because instead of one letter at the time like the monks did. Now the printing press was so efficient, and all of a sudden people could start reading the bible and other things.
Then the third revolution they said was in 1993. That was when the world wide web was created. Now you could distribute information at a cost that was 99% less than you could on a printing press.
[0:55:40.6] KM: Just fast. So fast. You type it, hit send, it’s gone. You don’t have to put it on a horse and carried across the west.
To our listeners, thank you for spending time with me and Walter. If you think this program’s been about you, you’re right. It’s also been for me. Thank you for letting me fulfill my destiny. My hope today is that you’ve heard or learned something and that has inspiring or enlightening. That it, whatever it is will help you up your business, your independence, or your life.
I’m Kerry McCoy and I’ll see you next time on Up in Your Business. Until then, be brave and keep it up.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:56:20.6] TB: You’ve been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Want to hear today’s program again or want someone else to benefit from it? Jot this down. Within 48 hours the podcast will be available at flagandbanner.com. Click the tab labeled “Radio Show”, there you’ll find today’s segments with links to resources you heard discussed on this program. Kerry’s goal: to help you live the American Dream.