Caroline Little To Succeed John Sturm As Head Of Newspaper Association

Caroline Little, who stepped down as the head of paidContent parent ContentNext last March, will succeed John Sturm as president and CEO of the Newspaper Association of America. Sturm announced last week that he would be stepping down in September. At that point, Little, who was previously publisher and CEO of Washington Post (NYSE: WPO) Newsweek Interactive, will take over.

Little began serving as ContentNext’s head after stepping down as CEO of North America for Guardian News and Media, the owner of ContentNext, last October. After joining GNM in August 2008 as a consultant to its U.S. operation, Little was named chief executive in January 2009.

She comes to the NAA at a difficult time for the newspaper industry. For the past two years, as the NAA’s quarterly figures have repeatedly shown, newspaper publishers have had a harder time than any other in grappling with the transition to digital. While advertising in general has been fairly positive for most media categories, including print magazines, the best newspapers have seen is a slowing down of the decline. In the meantime, digital revenues for newspapers have soared — however, it has not been enough to compensate for the steep drop in advertising and circulation dollars industrywide.

Managing the transition from print to digital is what Little has been hired to do and she clearly has as much understanding of the balance between those two sides as anyone.

During her four years in charge of WPNI, where she oversaw the paper’s flagship site as well as, Slate and TheRoot, Little was credited with leading the division to its first year of profitability and managed the integration of the unit with other parts of The Washington Post Co. From 2000 through 2004 she had served as COO, managing all WPNI product development, technology, sales and marketing activities. Little started at WaPo in 1997 as VP and general counsel of WPNI.

In choosing Little, NAA Chairman Michael Reed, who is also president and CEO of GateHouse Media, pointed to her combined experience in digital publishing, legal affairs and association operations, as well as her executive and personal qualities, as the reasons for the board’s selection.

Sturm was with the NAA for 16 years. first serving as the organization’s SVP of public policy and general counsel in 1995. Before that, he had held a variety of roles at the Federal Communications Commission and then went to work counsel to CBS (NYSE: CBS) and NBC (NSDQ: CMCSA). Considering that he served during some peak years for newspaper advertising — say, 2004, when revenues hit $55 billion — the NAA didn’t need someone with a background in driving revenues, let alone someone who could connect with both the print and digital side of the business.