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SBJ purchase agreement inked

Jennifer Jackson will sell business journal to incoming publisher Marty Goodnight

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[Editor's note: Because this news impacts Springfield Business Journal, we have opted to place this article in front of the paywall.]

Springfield Business Journal will have a new publisher in 2024 in a move toward the sale of the business in 2026. 

Jennifer Jackson, SBJ’s owner, has been publisher since taking over that role from its founder and her mother, Dianne Elizabeth Osis, in 2011. On Jan. 1, 2024, Jackson will hand over the publisher role to Marty Goodnight, SBJ’s former associate publisher and currently director of marketing for Classy Llama Studios LLC, an e-commerce marketing, branding and consulting firm.

Jackson has been the owner of SBJ since Osis’ retirement in 2016. For two years, she will continue as the sole owner of the publication and will also continue to serve as president of parent company SBJ Publishing Inc.

According to the deal, in January 2026, the publication’s ownership will be transferred to Goodnight. The pair declined to disclose the financial terms of the agreement, developed over almost a year of near-weekly meetings to iron out details.

“I have every intention of co-managing,” Jackson said. “I don’t feel that my role will be diminished in any way over the next two years, but my focus will change to helping create the business journal that Marty envisions – to help bring his vision to fruition.”

Goodnight, who worked for SBJ from June 2016 to December 2020, said he grew to embrace the journal’s mission and its focus on local business.

“I fell in love with it,” he said. “I rediscovered the power of media when it’s unique and authoritative content and local – and that’s SBJ.”

Goodnight said he left the publication with the intention of building his digital expertise at Classy Llama.

About a year ago, Goodnight said he invited Jackson for coffee and told her he would be interested in buying SBJ – a statement he had made previously as an SBJ executive. To his surprise, this time, Jackson said the timing was right.

Legacy business
SBJ was founded in 1980 with a focus on reporting local and regional business news. Counting Goodnight, it has 17 employees. Jackson declined to disclose annual revenue.

Both Jackson and Goodnight said they want to preserve the 44-year legacy of the journal.

“It’s a vital tool; it’s a tangible resource,” Goodnight said.

Jackson said she has been approached by interested buyers before, and they generally come from out of town.

“In the course of those conversations, I recognize that they weren’t necessarily as interested in buying Springfield Business Journal as they were in buying our location and our audience,” she said.

She said an outside buyer would likely want to run the business from another city.

“I feel strongly – and my mother did, too – that we’re filling a need in this community, and as long as we do that, there will always be a place for us,” she said.

Jackson said SBJ relies on local journalists to produce content.

“Business leaders depend on us to give them local information by which they make their most informed business decisions. Additionally, they depend on us to curate all the content that’s coming at them and help them refine that to the news and information that’s important to local business,” she said.

Part of SBJ’s legacy rests with Jackson herself, according to John Lohman, CEO of the Iowa-based Corridor Media Group, which publishes the Corridor Business Journal and the Quad Cities Regional Business Journal.

“It is great that the business journal will continue to be owned by a local leader,” Lohman said. “Jennifer has been one of the best business journal operators and owners in the country, following in her mother’s footsteps.”

He added that Jackson also served as a past board member and chair of a national trade association, the Alliance of Area Business Publishers, of which his papers and SBJ are members.

SBJ was the first business journal in the state of Missouri, according to past SBJ reporting. It was followed soon after by journals in St. Louis and Kansas City. For many years, the Missouri Press Association considered the journal a trade publication instead of a news outlet and wouldn’t allow SBJ to join its ranks.

Current MPA Executive Director Mark Maassen welcomed Goodnight in emailed comments for this story, noting “The journal, under the direction of Jennifer Jackson, has won many awards in regard to journalism excellence in the MPA Better Newspaper Contest, and we expect that to continue under Goodnight.”

SBJ holds the 2023 Gold Cup from MPA as the top weekly newspaper in awards received for its size category.

Maassen added that he worked with Goodnight at the Kansas City Star early in Goodnight’s career.

“I found him to be a hard-working, results-driven individual, and I am sure that his journalism and business acumen will contribute to the strong reputation that the Springfield Business Journal has,” Maassen said.

Morey Mechlin, former executive director of Care to Learn and regular emcee of SBJ’s annual Most Influential Women celebration, said Jackson has led SBJ through a difficult period for print media.

“She took over Springfield Business Journal when other newspapers were failing rapidly – when journalism was transitioning away from print and away from local news,” she said. “Jennifer stuck to the mission and incorporated all of the most current technology into SBJ and our community. Think of how much we would be missing if we didn’t have SBJ, because she covers businesses – their mission, their vision – and you don’t get that in other sources.”

Business focus
David Stoeffler, president and CEO of the Springfield Daily Citizen and former executive editor of the Springfield News-Leader, said SBJ has an important role in the community.

“As the traditional media has shrunk its coverage, outlets like the business journal are very important to the local news ecosystem,” he said. “We’re trying to play our part, and we think that the business journal and others are doing their part as well.”

Osis moved to Springfield from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to begin the journal as a one-woman company. According to past SBJ reporting, Jackson joined her in January 2007, when she came on as chief of operations.

“That’s a long time in a job that has that much responsibility around the clock,” Osis said, expressing pride in Jackson. “The only job in Springfield that is equal to her creativity and intelligence is being the publisher of the Springfield Business Journal.”

Osis said the journal has changed the city.

“Springfield would not be the same as it is without the Springfield Business Journal,” she said. “The growth and recognition that Springfield enjoys in the nation – some of it is due to the Springfield Business Journal.”

Matt Morrow, president of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, said the journal serves a vital function.

“A good business journal is really important to a growing community,” he said. “It’s one source where you can get news that’s for business and about business. That’s hard to find, but it’s essential, and SBJ has served that role for decades now.”

Publisher Goodnight
Stoeffler said he worked with Goodnight at the News-Leader.

“He has a tremendous amount of energy and passion for the business,” he said. “That includes serving the readers as well as providing benefit to advertisers – those who are helping pay the bills so that we can provide that important coverage.”

Kurt Theobald, CEO of Classy Llama and Goodnight’s current employer, said it feels like Goodnight is going home with the move.

“He’s gotten a lot of exposure to the digital world, and it’s very interesting to see him come from the world of physical publishing to digital and then back to the physical,” he said. “It’s not lost on him, the potential to weave that into SBJ.”

Goodnight said his immediate plan in his new role is to reengage with staff and to listen to their ideas about opportunities and needs. The publisher is the executive charged with heading up SBJ’s leadership team as they carry out the mission of the publication.

Goodnight said he also intends to connect with the community, particularly through digital initiatives. He said work in e-commerce has largely focused on ensuring customers have a positive experience with a brand.

“I don’t think it’s much different here,” he said. “Thinking about and translating the user experience with SBJ is something I plan to build on. That’s one of the big opportunities here.”

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