Monday, November 28, 2011

USAT | At Sports Media Group, vertical or silo?

Sports has long been the most valuable franchise at Gannett's most visible brand: USA Today. Now, it's fueling a management hiring spree at the USA Today Sports Media Group, one that comes amid a pricey swelling of the overall executive ranks.

The latest hires, disclosed only yesterday, suggest the Media Group is threatening to become a giant silo within the GCI organizational structure generally, and USAT in particular.

Silos, it's worth remembering, were supposed to be banished long ago out of fear they inhibit communication and cooperation across departments. They were identified as a major cause of USAT's Jack Kelley scandal seven years ago.

The Sports Media Group is led by the presumably well-paid President Tom Beusse, whose January appointment handed him business and strategy oversight for national sports initiatives across USAT, as well as GCI's other 81 U.S. dailies; 23 TV stations; and subsidiaries and action sports site BNQT.

Beusse reports to USAT Publisher Dave Hunke. And Hunke reports to GCI CEO Gracia Martore.

The Media Group silo lurched higher with more recent editorial appointments and business deals.

A former Yahoo executive -- Dave Morgan -- was hired last month into a new position: senior vice president of content and editor-in-chief. Oddly, the press release announcing his hiring didn't detail any of his responsibilities.

Then, in a memo yesterday, Morgan said two more Yahoo sports executives were joining the Media Group, effective today:
  • Mark Pesavento will be vice president of content, "overseeing broad areas of concentration in news, editorial, blogs, video and photo in addition to shaping our digital needs and execution."
  • Gerry Ahern was named director of news content, "a broad network role encompassing core properties (USA Today, Sports Weekly,, Gannett dailies and Gannett TV) and core elements of reporting, enterprise, investigations and columns."
Beusse's domain has also bulked up with the purchase of two companies: US Presswire, a syndicator of sports photography, and mixed martial arts site MMAjunkie.

Silos vs. verticals
The Sports Media Group was designed to be a super vertical in last year's USAT reorganization. Verticals are subject-specific web operations designed to more closely align advertising and editorial.

But they look an awful lot like the USAT editorial silos that the exhaustive 2004 Kelley Report sharply criticized.

"Lines of communication running both horizontally and vertically among the sections (or 'silos') at the newspaper are palpably defective,'' the report said. "USA Today operates more as four separate newspapers in four separate 'silos' (some staffers used the word 'fiefdoms') than a single publication. Communications deficiencies promote turf problems among departments."

Whether it's a silo or a vertical, the Media Group's growth raises a number of questions.

What does it mean for USAT's traditional sports department, and those at the other 81 dailies and the 23 TV stations? Do sports editors there continue to report to their executive editors and news directors?

Or do they now fall under Beusse's operation, eventually and effectively making the Media Group a mammoth new operating unit within the whole of GCI?


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. You go Beusse. The only guy with a plan. Why not hire the best and brightest at any cost? No one is every held accountable anyways. USAT is exempt. No revenue, no problem. Don't worry we have your bonuses covered and the other divisions will take furloughs so you don't have to. That's the USA Today way.

  3. Is Mark Pesavento any relation to Amy Pesavento in Gannett HR?

  4. We are doomed

  5. Does Morgan also host The Daily Show?

  6. Why are virtually all our executive hires out of work "consultants" at the time they get hired by this company? Why are we paying signing bonuses to these people on top of fat salaries.


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