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Sam Ford is Director of Cultural Intelligence for Tiller Press at Simon & Schuster, a ViacomCBS company.
As a Knight News Innovation Fellow with Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, he has been leading research and advising on a range of local news projects, work which received the inaugural Research Prize for Professional Relevance from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) in 2018.
In addition, Sam serves as a research affiliate with MIT’s Program in Comparative Media Studies/Writing, through which he has supported various initiatives of the Future of Work in Kentucky with the MIT Open Documentary Lab, the University of Southern California Annenberg School’s Civic Imagination Project, and as a supporting member of the Kentucky team taking part in the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (REAP), the first U.S. region to ever be accepted to the program.
Sam is also co-chair of the MIT Graduate Alumni Council, which he has been on since its inception, and chair of the inaugural WKU English Department Advisory Committee. He is also emeritus member and past chair of WKU’s Department of Communication Advisory Council and a member of the editorial boards of the University of Southern California’s Case Studies in Strategic Communication and the Organization for Transformative Works’ Transformative Works and Cultures.
With Henry Jenkins and Joshua Green, Sam co-authored the 2013 NYU Press book Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture, which was released in paperback in Spring 2018. The book has also been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Italian, Swedish, and Polish. It was named one of Strategy+Business’ 2013 Best Business Books and voted as a “Top 10 Best Marketing Book You Read This Summer” by the readers of Advertising Age. He is also co-editor, with Abigail De Kosnik and C. Lee Harrington, of the 2011 book The Survival of Soap Opera: Transformations for a New Media Era as well. He frequently publishes academic work on media fandom, transmedia storytelling, professional wrestling, soap operas, the marketing and communications world, and a range of other subjects.
In 2015, Sam launched and ran the Center for Innovation & Engagement at Univision’s Fusion Media Group (as FMG’s VP, Innovation & Engagement), which he ran through the end of 2016. In that role, he helped manage relationships with a range of academic, industry, nonprofit organizations, and other key communities that are focused on innovation and experimentation in storytelling or new ways of building deeper relationships with key audiences and communities. He also collaborated with teams throughout the portfolio company to foster, build, and scale new approaches to storytelling and audience engagement. The Center was the subject of a Harvard Nieman Lab feature, and projects the Center played a key role in designing were honored with a Shorty Social Good Award and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.
Sam has worked on projects and/or consulted with a range of organizations, including Alabama Media Group, The Coca-Cola Company, Lowe’s/Orchard Supply Hardware, MacArthur Foundation, Microsoft, ORBmedia, Poynter, the U.S. Department of State, and WNYC/New York Public Radio. He also worked for strategic communications and marketing firm Peppercomm from 2007-2015, where he was named both 2014 Digital Communicator of the Year and a 2014 Social Media MVP by PR News, as well as 2011 Social Media Innovator of the Year by Bulldog Reporter. During that time, Sam served as both a member of the Board of Directors of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association and as co-chair of their Ethics Committee.
From 2005-2008, Sam was co-founder and later research manager of the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium. He also acted as co-organizer of the MIT Futures of Entertainment conference series from 2006-2012. He has taught a range of courses on popular culture and the media industries for MIT Comparative Media Studies/Writing, the WKU Popular Culture Studies Program, and WKU’s School of Journalism & Broadcasting.
Sam has been a contributor to Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and Inc. He has also written for Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, BusinessWeek, Advertising Age, Slate, The Huffington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, Harvard’s Nieman Lab, Knowledge@Wharton, Columbia Journalism Review, Poynter, Tribeca, Portfolio, Chief Marketer, CMO.com, PRWeek, PR News, The Public Relations Strategist, Communication World, O’Dwyer PR, Firm Voice, PropertyCasualty360, Global HR News, TABB Forum, SLAM! Sports, and various other publications. He began his career as a reporter and columnist for various Kentucky newspapers and, in 2006, won a Kentucky Press Association award for Best Feature.
Sam has appeared in documentaries Soap Life, Who Shot the Daytime Soap?, and VICE’s Lil Bub and Friendz and has been quoted in/on, or had his work cited by, a wide range of publications/shows, including The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, The Financial Times, The Los Angeles Times, Mashable, CNN, APM Marketplace, BBC World Service, PRI’s TheWorld, CNBC, The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Quartz, Fortune, Forbes, Investor’s Business Daily, CIO, Hollywood Reporter, Les Inrocks, Asahi Shimbun, Nikkei, DePers, Harvard’s Nieman Lab, American Press Institute, Knowledge@Wharton, The Washington Times, HLN, Venture Beat, AdWeek, MediaShift, ESPN: The Magazine, Télérama, Mental Floss, Boing Boing, Slashdot, Buzzfeed, Metro, Reader’s Digest, CableFAX, Soap Opera Weekly, The San Jose Mercury-News, and MIT Slice of Life…and most proudly as trivia on Jeopardy! and NPR’s Ask Me Another, as well as The New York Times crossword.
In addition to being a featured speaker at South by Southwest on several occasions, Sam has spoken or moderated at a wide range of in-person and virtual events, including National Association of Television Programming Executives (NATPE), Social Media Week NYC, Future of Storytelling, Front End of Innovation, Back End of Innovation, Media Insights & Engagement Conference, Planning-ness, Annual Insurance Executives Conference, Media Days Munich, NeoTVLab in Argentina, Cartagena Inspira in Colombia, Consumer Culture Theory conference, Console-ing Passions, Flow, and Social Media for Utilities, as well as events for MIT, the University of Southern California, Brown University, UC-Berkeley, Northeastern University, Aberystwyth University in Wales, Western Kentucky University, ESOMAR, the Public Relations Society of America, CTAM, the Advertising Research Foundation, the Association of Cable Communicators, the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, PR News, CableFAX, the Popular Culture Association, the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, the Association for Corporate Growth, the Luxury Marketing Council, the American Association of University Presses, the Association of Management Consulting Firms, the International Association of Business Communicators, the Association of National Advertisers, MarketingProfs, the Kentucky Press Association, the Kentucky Travel Industry Association, the Corporate Communication Leaders Forum, Donate Life America, Social Media Today, and a range of other forums.
Previously, he served as a member of WKU’s Young Alumni Council and WKU’s Advertising+Public Relations Professional Advisory Committee, and he was a 2020 mentor for the Critical Craft Studies Program at Warren Wilson College.
Sam received his Master’s degree from MIT’s Program in Comparative Media Studies/Writing and a Bachelor’s degree from Western Kentucky University as part of the Honors Program, where he majored in news/editorial journalism, communication studies, mass communication, and English, with a minor in film studies.
He lives in Bowling Green, Ky., with wife Amanda and daughters Collins, Harper, and Emma.