In his presentation to the conference, John Paton signalled a "bright future" for news outlets which are prepared to take risks and invest in the areas of growth - i.e. digital.
He said Digital First Media itself will "look remarkably different from where it is today".
The company reported digital advertising revenues of $164 million at the end of 2012, he said, 17 per cent of which was made up of video, mobile, SEO and programmatic revenue.
He said that the goal is that this will rise to more than 50 per cent by 2015.
But this will mean further investment in areas of digital growth, Paton said, of "up to $100 million more" a year.
"Past experiences and legacy cost structure do not buy that future," he said. "All of this costs money and that money has to come from somewhere, and that somewhere has to be from legacy side of the business".
He suggested delegates ask themselves "are you preserving the past, or building the future?"
And he said they should also "demand" that their bosses "take these tough decisions with you".
He added that those within an organisation who "take risks" should be rewarded. Digital First Media is aiming to do just that by launching a profit-sharing initiative for its staff - although he stressed not for executives.
"Take the risk with us, we'll reward you with that wealth," he said.
Paton also spoke about the power of partnerships. DFM, for example, is partnered with a number of outlets, including video platform Tout and content-marketing service NewsCred. Editor-in-chief at Digital First Media Jim Brady spoke to Journalism.co.uk about how the company is using Tout in a podcast earlier this year.
"I think they are fast, they are nimble, they have less fear of failing", Paton said today, in reference to its partners. He added that their "culture is very difficult to bring into a larger company, so the first thing we can do to be innovative is partner with them."
In conclusion he added: "I have no doubt about a bright future for journalism, and few doubts that smart, risk-taking companies will make that journey."
Free daily newsletter
- The Financial Times' first VR experiment shows viewers around Rio's favelas
- Inside the Financial Times' special projects strategy, six months on
- How Google's Digital News Initiative is evolving
- How publishers can learn more from their newsroom experiments
- #StopTrafficking2016 project shows how augmented reality can foster empathy with news and social issues