Updated at 5:10 a.m ET today: Scrambling to boost revenue after last month's sharp decline, the nation's top circulation newspaper said yesterday that it hired Money Magazine Publisher Brett Wilson to oversee all advertising sales. The move by Publisher Craig Moon (below) pushes aside Senior Vice President Jeff Webber, who will now be responsible only for the paper's website sales and business affairs. In a press release, Moon eschewed the usual niceties typically accorded executives like Webber during a big management shift -- an omission suggesting Webber might not stay much longer at the Gannett flagship.
Wilson's appointment as senior vice president of advertising sales comes just two days after USA Today revealed that May's revenue had plunged 18% -- the biggest decline so far this year. The disclosure came in Gannett's monthly statistical report, which showed across-the-board revenue declines during the month. Wall Street punished Gannett stock in response, sending it skittering 7% since Tuesday -- to $23.67 yesterday, a low not seen in 14 years. USA Today's outsized role in Gannett's declining fortunes likely pressured Moon to find a new sales strategy.
Wilson had been Money publisher only since November. A 21-year Time Inc. veteran, he had previously been associate publisher of Time Magazine. He had earlier held other sales posts for Fortune and other magazines.
Webber followed Kelley
Webber's fall had been rumored. A Gannett Blog reader said in a comment, just two days ago: "A good friend tells me he is on his way out." In his revised role, Webber's job as chief of USAToday.com sales might have been a plum, high-profile assignment -- given that the Web is key to future growth. But yesterday's forced management shuffle clearly wasn't a promotion.
Webber had been senior vice president of advertising for USA Today since 2006, and publisher of the paper's website since 2000. As ad-sales chief, he had replaced Jacki Kelley, who quit to join Web portal Yahoo and then, last fall, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. (Kelley's husband, former star USA Today reporter Jack Kelley, resigned in disgrace after admitting in 2004 that he'd faked stories for years.)
Earlier: Sales chief Jeff Webber has been pushed aside, Publisher Craig Moon has just disclosed. Replacing Webber: former Money Magazine Publisher Brett Wilson. I'm working off my iPhone again, so can't write much. I'll post more later. Comment, below!
What's next for USA Today's ad-sales strategy? Your thoughts, in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, use this link from a non-work computer; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.