Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Blue Dot Special

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I'm not sure, but I think the USA Today redesign means that the national newspaper is going from aspiring to a Pulitzer Prize for best paragraph to one for best tweet.

Also, if a reimagining of what a newspaper is is needed -- and it is -- I'm not convinced that Gannett is the company you want trailblazing the way to the promised land. All this talk about cross-platform cross-pollination in the New York Times article on the 30-year-old daily's reboot just sounds like so much perfume poured over a budget-cutting turd.

So, here's the lowdown on the big dot-com face-lift. Viral video at 11.

The broader makeover is part of effort by USA Today’s parent company, Gannett, to blend the resources of all of its television and newspaper assets. The company owns 82 newspapers in the United States, including USA Today, as well as 23 broadcast television stations and some digital media properties. The company is also planning to rebuild its newsroom to create a single national news desk to house staff members from its newspapers and television stations.

Mr. Kramer, who is the founder of MarketWatch and joined USA Today in May, said that starting this fall, Gannett’s newspapers and television stations would share more content on breaking news stories, with a greater blending of video and print on the Web site. Print reporters will be expected to do their own videos and will be given backpacks with video equipment to carry on assignments. He also plans to better pair the papers’ national investigative projects with local coverage; smaller papers will run USA Today investigative stories with sidebars written by reporters about local impact.

“This has to be an orchestra,” said Mr. Kramer. “It can’t be a single instrument anymore.”


(snip)

Analysts have welcomed efforts by all news organizations to blend print, video and digital reporting, and they point out that USA Today’s print makeover is overdue. Alexia S. Quadrani, a media analyst at JPMorgan Chase, noted in a report in July that Gannett’s newspaper advertising revenue declined 8.1 percent in the second quarter, which was worse than she had expected. She said she expected USA Today to remain weak in the third quarter.

Ms. Quadrani pointed out this week that Gannett had benefited recently from all of the television advertising related to the Olympics and political campaign season, temporary bursts of revenue. And she stressed that Gannett still depended heavily on its newspapers.

“A revamp is going to be welcome because I think you do need to do something to reinvigorate that brand,” said Ms. Quadrani. “They’re still more skewed toward print in terms of where their revenue and cash flow comes from.”

Gracia C. Martore, Gannett’s chief executive, said the company’s 5,000 journalists had already started collaborating on stories. During the shootings in July in Aurora, Colo., the company’s network of television stations depended on content from KUSA, the Gannett television station in Denver, until 18 journalists from other Gannett television stations arrived to pitch in and help report the story. During the Olympics, reporters from KUSA who knew Missy Franklin, a swimmer from suburban Denver, shared their contacts with Gannett’s print outlets and other television networks.

“The great thing about Gannett right now is the leveraging of assets that used to be housed in silos,” said Ms. Martore. “That’s how I think you survive and thrive in a digital era.”
THE NEW USA Today looks like a website, and the thing read like The Drudge Report even before there was such a thing as the World Wide Web.

I mean, God bless the Internet. I got nothing agin' it. But it seems to me that a newspaper has to be a different kind of beast than a news website. If I want to get my news from the Internet, I will get it from the Internet . . . and it will be a lot fresher than my morning copy of USA Today: Dead Tree Edition.

What I need from a newspaper are the kinds of things the Internet does less well than print. What I don't need is a website that gets ink on my fingers.

Anyway, that's my take on the new and improved Blue Dot Special. Your mileage may vary.

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