Thursday, July 28, 2011

USAT Watch | When an oldie isn't a goodie

What has USA Today accomplished after hiring 15 highly paid senior executives to supercharge the paper's leap to a digital world?

Two-day-old stories on its homepage.

Early this morning, USAT was prominently featuring a story -- Only 1 deadly strain of E. coli illegal -- that had already been published in the print edition of Tuesday's paper. (See screengrab, above.)

This runs counter to USAT's much-discussed plan last summer for a "Newsroom of Tomorrow," where "print will pick up more stories we posted first on other platforms or a modified version of a blog post or afternoon/evening news story."

The digital-first strategy, outlined to staff on Aug. 26 in this presentation, was a necessary, although tardy, move in the right direction. But the paper's continuing slow-footed moves online show the paper is still suffering major hiccups nearly a year later.

Earlier: In Your Life, hard news is the good news.

USAT Watch is an occasional progress report on a high-profile reorganization launched in August 2010 to boost advertising and readership at Gannett's struggling marquee daily.


  1. I'm smelling another Mirror Aeard. By the way I heard your speech at the award ceremony was awesome. "a....thank you." chills I tell you, chills.

  2. This is what happens when you have a company full of VPs and no one to do the work.

  3. From what I can tell from the e-mail that goes out to the entire newsroom, that lefthand homefront photo position isn't driven by news unless breaking news happens.

    This lineup goes out around 5 p.m. with instructions/suggestions for what should be in that position during certain stretches of the evening and overnight. Generally these are USAT stories that they want to give bigger play to. Same goes for many of the stories stacked on the right side.

    The e-mail is pretty extensive, with suggestions of possible stories among what's already posted or what's coming. Clearly it's meant to help the homefront editors keep track of all the stories they have available -- and there are quite a few. The HF editors are supposed to adjust what goes where according to news and metrics (what people are clicking on) and juggle that with what didn't get enough play.

    So it's not like a newspaper, where if you have any sense of news judgment, the order, play and layout are self-evident. That could be the origin of the complaints about faulty news judgment online.

    I see the problem, though. If you're intuitively looking for what's new now, it looks bad when it's mixed up with what's old.

  4. I suggest we slow down even further and let the last of our competition completely trample us. Then we will truly have media oblivion.

  5. Whatever happened to common sense news judgement?

  6. 4:28 pm... amen!
    7:51 am: While the explanation is appreciated, contradicts the nature of the Web -- now news, news now-- and why people look to it first. Your explanation sounds like something a print suit person came up with to cover the fact the publication isn't and can't be a top news site during the hours that count.

  7. @10:02: I'm in the trenches, not a suit. This is just my guess as to what the root of the problem is. I am in no way making excuses for the homefront. In fact, I agree that online is supposed to offer the most up-to-date news.

    If I want the news now, I don't go to our homefront because I know they're still pulling the story, reading it, writing a headline, hunting for art, writing a caption, adding a video. That's one person doing the production of a story. On the overnight and weekends, it's just one person doing everything.

    Meanwhile, that AP story is already on Google News or the Yahoo home page.

    If we're going have magazine-like components, we need to communicate that somehow to the reader. Right now we aren't.

  8. USAT got rid of most of the people who were willing to police this sort of crap in favor of protecting and hiring people who are more interested in being popular and not rocking the boat. This is the kind of sloppy and tardy stuff that has been going on here -- online and in print -- since the gatekeepers were driven out. There's no one left with the balls to call out any of these incompetents responsible for hideous decisions and general neglect, so expect this brand to continue to spiral downward as the quest to have a Stepford newsroom continues.


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