Palo Alto Weekly publisher Bill Johnson, who started a small weekly in 1979 and turned it into a digital and print publishing company known for its integrity, innovation and community involvement, will retire later this year, he told his employees last week. The plan, he said, has been in the works for more than two years to ensure a smooth transition.
Johnson, who founded the Palo Alto Weekly when he was 26, said he would remain in his role as president of Embarcadero Mediaof the Board of Directors and Chairman of the Embarcadero Media Foundation, as well as remaining involved in some of the company’s larger initiatives.
His successor as president and CEO will be Adam Dawes, a Palo Alto native who has lived on the peninsula his entire life. Dawes has a lifelong interest in media and the value of quality information and joins Embarcadero after more than 20 years in the technology industry, with the last 14 products in development for Google. In his last role, he led a series of local news projects for Google News Initiative, a $300 million program that works with media organizations large and small around the world, to help them adapt their business models. and their strategies for the digital future of journalism.
Johnson recruited Dawes to join Embarcadero Media’s board of directors nearly 10 years ago and said Dawes worked during that time with him and the company’s management team to develop strategies for expansion of the company’s digital publishing activities.
“Adam is about as perfect for the company and the community as one would imagine,” Johnson said. “He knows the community, our business, our organization’s unique culture, and embraces our mission of serving the community through accurate, insightful, and thoughtful media coverage. He also brings a wealth of experience in creating successful digital products, which are central to our future sustainability strategy.”
“This is a unique region in the world,” Dawes said, “with such a diversity of people, businesses and cultural institutions, all set amidst extraordinary natural beauty. News and Quality information is essential for healthy communities, and I am extremely excited to join Embarcadero and help connect and serve this community through our publications.”
During Johnson’s four decades as head of Embarcadero Media, he steered the company through sweeping changes that upended the media industry and bankrupted thousands of news organizations across the states. United States: the advent of the internet, changing revenue trends as advertising shifted from print to digital, recessions, the rise of social media and the pervasive adoption of technology mobile.
Despite these challenges, the business has grown to include several publications and websites both on the peninsula and in the East Bay Tri-Valley, including two local news websites launched last October, the Redwood City Pulse and Livermore Vineyard. In addition to the weekly and Palo Alto Online, the company produces The Almanac at Menlo Park, the online site Mountain View Voicethe Pleasanton Weekly and DanvilleSanRamon.com. He also publishes The Six Fiftiesan online magazine and newsletter that covers the life, food and culture of the Peninsula and Silicon Valley.
Johnson founded Embarcadero Media by bringing together a group of 15 local families who shared his belief that the community needed and would support an independent, thoughtful newspaper that provides in-depth coverage of local issues, keeps readers informed about local government, schools and interesting people. living here and served as a place for community discussion and debate. Today, many of those original shareholders have passed on their shares to children or grandchildren, bringing the number of shareholders to 30, including Johnson.
Johnson said there would be no change in ownership of the company and that shareholders are deeply committed to the importance of local journalism and local ownership, a belief Dawes strongly shares.
Dawes, 52, has lived in San Carlos since 2005 with his wife and two children (ages 11 and 13). Her desire to serve the community was inspired by her parents. They moved to Palo Alto in 1963 and fell in love with the area. His father, Dexter, became an early shareholder of Embarcadero Media and served on the board for 13 years. He has also served on numerous local nonprofit and government boards, including Channing House, Foothill College, and City of Palo Alto Utilities. His mother, Jean, was a guidance counselor at Palo Alto High School for more than 20 years. She also served a long time on the board of the Palo Alto Housing Corporation and helped start Pursuit of Excellence, a nonprofit group that provides financial aid and other support to underserved students who want to go to the University. Both were recipients, at different times, of the Lifetimes of Achievement Award given annually by Avenidas.
Dawes had his first exposure to journalism as one of the editors of the Palo Alto high school newspaper, the Campanile, in 1987-88. He attended Walter Hays Elementary School, what is now Greene Middle School, then Paly. He earned his BA in Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard and worked briefly on documentary filmmaking.
Dawes was also drawn to ways to use the newly emerging Internet and World Wide Web to bring people together and strengthen communities and democracy. He joined the new Smart Valley, a nonprofit organization that was part of Joint Venture: Silicon Valley, with a mission to harness the power of the Internet to improve education, government, and other service initiatives. audience.
Next, Dawes earned his MBA from Stanford Business School in the late 90s, then worked with several early-stage startups before joining Google in 2008.
Johnson said he and Dawes plan to complete the transition by the end of the year, with Dawes starting in September.