For decades, Sean Giancola ’90 did what many New York City mass transit commuters do: He read newspapers. As a self-described newspaper junkie and sportsaholic, he combed The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal on the morning ride and devoured the city’s tabloids—the New York Daily News and the New York Post—en route home. “True sports fans read the Post and Daily News back to front,” he says. This, of course, was before the internet intercepted daily life, and the digital kingdom began its deliveries of apps and social media. But Giancola had little trouble with the transition. “I think I was one of the first people to download the iPad app for the Post,” he says. “I think I still pay for it. I pay myself.”
That’s because Giancola is the CEO and publisher of the New York Post, leading the feisty, iconic Gotham tabloid and its multimedia platforms through the challenges the newspaper industry has faced in the ever-evolving digital landscape. “When you’re a media company, you have a diversity of portfolios, and that’s why you have fun with podcasts, videos, e-commerce or expansion of sports or events. I’m excited about those things because that’s what the market wants. People want new, exciting, shiny pennies,” he says. “That’s probably my biggest challenge—we want to do all these things. We have this great internet presence, great brand and business, but making the economics work in publishing is hard. But it’s also fun and challenging. You have to be innovative and creative and come up with engaging ideas.”
Giancola has read the Post since 1990, but becoming a publisher wasn’t even a blip on his radar back then. He earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing management from the Martin J. Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University and headed to the Big Apple to join friends and work there. After false starts in telecommunications and computer system sales, he landed on Wall Street and became a licensed bond broker. “Although I was successful, it wasn’t what I really wanted to do,” he says. “It was a tumultuous time in the markets and the economy, and I just wasn’t built for that. It wasn’t my passion.”
Entering the New York Media World
Looking for a new direction, Giancola reached out to his Delta Upsilon brothers and friends in his Orange network. One suggested advertising, particularly the magazine business. He explored that option through a series of informal interviews, “but no one wanted to hire a stockbroker to sell media,” he says. Eventually, he connected with a fraternity brother at the publisher Miller Freeman and was offered a sales manager position at Financial Trader magazine. The job resonated with Giancola, and he hit his stride. “Sales and marketing lend themselves to some of my personality—I love people,” he says. “Marketing is also where creativity and problem solving connect, and that’s my passion.”
In 1998, Giancola began a seven-year stint with Time Inc.’s Money magazine, first as an account executive and then as New York sales manager. From there he moved on to a series of sales management and advertising leadership positions. At American Express Publishing, he worked with such publications as T & L Golf, Food & Wine and Travel & Leisure. In 2009, he signed on with AOL, where he held key sales, marketing and strategy roles, including serving as vice president of national sales. In that position, he also oversaw sales at the Huffington Post. At AOL, Giancola stepped back from print, took a full swing at the digital world and connected. “When we bought the Huffington Post, it was a paradigm change,” he says. “You’re talking about a huge digital news entity that wanted to change the way people consume news.”
Giancola caught the attention of global media giant News Corp, parent company of the New York Post, and joined the Post as chief revenue officer in 2015, ascending to CEO and publisher in 2019. He accepted the challenge to help “evolve the business” and embrace a vision of the future of publishing. “I love a challenge and, regardless of your business, you have to embrace change to a degree,” he says. “How do you embrace change in a positive way that affects your business, and how do you motivate people to change?”
Life Experiences at Syracuse University
For Giancola, building positive relationships, embracing change and evolving personally are keys to his success. They’re also reflective of his Syracuse University experience and how it has proved so influential in his life. “Syracuse left an indelible stamp on my life,” he says. “My friends are all from Syracuse and my career has been shaped by Syracuse.”
Giancola grew up in the small, seaside town of Cape May, New Jersey, and wasn’t sure he’d fit in at Syracuse. It was a different world—one that exposed him to people from all walks of life and so much more than he’d encountered growing up. He forged lifelong friendships through Delta Upsilon, worked as a bartender and was a huge Orange sports fan, traveling with friends to New Orleans for both the 1987 NCAA Final Four and the 1988 Sugar Bowl. “Syracuse gave me the opportunity to mature, to meet diverse people and to learn how to socialize and interact,” he says. “It really built a foundation for me being an adult.”
Along with life experiences and developing a strong work ethic, bonding with others truly stands out in his mind. “It’s the people who shaped the experience,” he says. “Yes, Syracuse has a beautiful campus, great facilities, great sports, but when I think about Syracuse, I think about the people I met and what that has meant to me.”
Yes, Syracuse has a beautiful campus, great facilities, great sports, but when I think about Syracuse, I think about the people I met and what that has meant to me.
Giancola admittedly gets nostalgic when he returns to campus. For years, he’s regularly come back to Syracuse for fraternity events and football and basketball games, often sharing the experience with his wife and son. “I love looking at the Hill,” he says.
In early March, he spoke to a broadcast and digital journalism class at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, discussing his career, fielding questions and welcoming students to network with him. He believes being a Syracuse graduate carries gravitas and is a great way to connect with a powerful alumni network, especially in New York City. “Syracuse people are prideful,” he says. “There’s a passion for Syracuse and the environment that’s been built up here.”
Through it all, from his days on the Hill to the changing landscape in the media industry, Giancola moves forward, connecting with people, seeking creativity and driving innovation. As he says, “You can’t dictate how people are going to consume their media. It’s dictated for you, and then you have to evolve your business to adapt.” At the New York Post, he’s constantly exploring ways to diversify revenue and build on the well-known brand recognized for its eye-catching cover headlines, news, sports and celebrity gossip. He’s seen engagement with the website increase tremendously, added newsroom staff and rolled out new features and product offerings. For instance, the Post recently partnered with the Investigation Discovery network to launch the true-crime TV series “Torn from the Headlines: New York Post Reports.” “I love to inspire and motivate people inside my organization to be successful and build their own businesses,” Giancola says. “How do we think differently in the editorial room, in producing videos? I love that we have the ability to create things together.”
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Long recognized as one of the elite schools of mass communication, Newhouse embraces virtually every known form of information dissemination. Programs are rooted in the liberal arts while you learn how to manage and produce for the mass media and other areas of public communications.