Wednesday, July 11, 2012

USAT | Two questions for Kramer and Callaway

[Kramer, Callaway]

1. As more Gannett newspapers erect paywalls, can USA Today's determinedly ad-supported business model work?

2. Or must Publisher Larry Kramer and his new editor David Callaway turn USAT into a paper producing content readers and viewers are willing to pay for?


  1. All you need to do to see the way it CAN be done, is go to the WSJ website. TONS of content over many, many categories. Some of it is free, some paid. If you didn't know The Journal was a financial publication, you'd think they cover finance very well, but there's a broad, deep coverage that's INTERESTING. also has VIDEO. Some of it is a promo or explainer for a print story.

    WSJ also produces a show that runs currently on Fox News, but previously on PBS.

    Marketwatch produces business content for radio stations, both as updates throughout the business day, and a standalone radio show.

    Even though USAT and WSJ are miles apart in their areas of expertise (fill in joke here), they are still the only two truly national, daily publications. WSJ has proliferated while USAT has been contracting since USAT: The TV Show, bombed.

    It CAN be done right. ESPN resurrected the concept a few years ago with SportsNation.

    ESPN has the sports franchise in the US AND original content beyond just sports. The Weather Channel has weather AND original content beyond just weather. WSJ has the business franchise, AND original content that appeals to an audience beyond the green eyeshade crowd.

    WHAT DOES USAT HAVE? And WHAT CAN IT DO before it becomes MySpace, or Blackberry or Palm Pilot or Kodak or ????

  2. Does USAT even have the staff anymore that can produce enough quality content that will make readers/viewers willing to pay for it? Hell, I am sure not going to pay for the kind of mistake-filled, often late and almost trivial content I see on the USAT website. And the paper is a total joke compared with what it used to be, which was a fairly decent, enterprising product that was intelligently edited.

  3. Over the last 5 years I have slowly watch my local newspaper's editorial content, especially in Sports, decline further and further. But, about 2 years ago they hired a new editor, re-doubled their efforts, especially in Sports, and now produced a much, much better product than ever before. I know national is not local, but the same principles should apply. Improve the editorial content and you'll make USAT more meaningful...with or without paywalls.

    But, a cautionary note. As Private Vasquez said in the movie Aliens: "whatever you're gonna do, ya better do it FAST!

  4. Heh 9:01 relax. It's going to be alright. Take a deep breath. Why not give Kramer a chance before you dump all over him. Mark Selt 13 on your collective calendars and then lets see what happens.

  5. Can editors and most reporters and REBUILD. There is top down cancer here.

  6. 12:17 "Let's see what happens." Love that attitude: it sounds just like Gannett's business model! But, umm... "let's see what happens" is always a bad substitute for sound strategy.

    I think 9:01 made some great points. As for the WSJ, spot on! Personally I don't care for its editorial views but the larger operation is many-tiered and always interesting — which is why I read it every day, and check a "local" Gannett paper for pictures of drunk chicks.

  7. And a question for Martore. What happened to that extensive national search for a new editor?

    Werevwe all lied to yet again?

  8. We've given a chance to so many people that I've lost count. So excuse us if we are a bit cynical at this point. Meanwhile, the threats are still in the air, business is still struggling and most people's main focus isn't the's keeping their jobs. Not good for USAT. Not good for employees and their health and state of mind.

    This death by a thousand paper cuts is an approach that I guess works for the leaders of this company, but it sure is torturous for the rest of us. No matter how many assurances we get that change for the better is on the way, after all the lies of the last four years, those words really don't mean a damn thing anymore.

    Kramer and Callaway should just do the humane thing and do what it is that corporate probably wants done. Get rid of everyone over 50. Downsize the print products even more. Hire more digital people who might be good at certain things but are generally a disaster when it comes to the core skills of publishing a news product. Then when readers reject the clownish news put out by the new regime, we can all be rehired back to repair the mess they all created.

    If nothing else, just please stop lying to us. No more pep talks in the auditorium. Just get on with the executions.

    1. well here you go. it only took 24 hours for the naysayers to show up. it really doesn't matter what Kramer and Callaway do. you and your pals will hate it. you don't really want change. you want to complain. "oh the lies." what lies.? bad leadership, thanks Dave and Susie, aren't lies. it's just bad leadership. kramer and Callaway are probably two of the most honest people I've seen stand up in front of the USAT team. but you'd rather wallow in the past and lament about "the lies."

  9. A frequent USA TODAY reader would see the decline in content both in quality and quantity. The only advantage of buying the online version is it's less likely to blow away.

  10. Mr. Kramer, I would urge you to blow up the reorganization that split USA TODAY's newsroom into "content" teams and "distribution" teams. It doesn't work, and it ensures that the vast majority of the experienced, talented journalists you praised the other day when you introduced David Calloway are kept as far away as possible from the day-to-day planning and operations of the non-print products, which are clearly the future of the company. As it is now, the "distribution" team increasingly drives what the "content" team does (admittedly, it went too far the other way in the old print-centric days), and the results speak for themselves -- despite pumping out more content than ever, and a lot of people working harder than they've ever worked, over the past few years, Web traffic to USA TODAY has not increased to the levels we were assured it would. Yes, we do react much faster when a big story breaks, but that's about it.

    We should truly integrate content and distribution by putting experienced journalists in key digital positions and/or blowing up the deadlines for the print product so that more of those experienced people are in the newsroom earlier in the day to work on all platforms at times when we can reach the most readers. But there seems to be an attitude that anybody at USA TODAY over a certain age just doesn't "get" the Web (ironically, that attitude is being propagated by over-40 managers in key leadership positions who may have print backgrounds, but who have pulled the ladder up behind themselves and will only give leadership jobs to 20-something young women, or so it seems). Trust me -- there are a lot of us here who do get the Web, and have since its early days, and we are dying, begging, pleading to do more work on the digital products. Please let us. Thanks.

  11. Did Callaway undergo the UnitedHealth-required biometric testing before Gannett hired him?

  12. No. but he had to complete a timed climb up the Purpose Wall.

  13. Boys, you can get rid of the dead weight thusly:

    1. Buyouts.
    2. Firings.
    3. Moving editors to reporting slots.
    4. Moving copy editorsand print siders to digital slots.
    5. Canning reporters who are rarely in the paper.

  14. No but like you and all other new hires in 2012 he will have to in 2013. No one does in their first year. But thanks for asking a sarcastic question

  15. Yes, scaling the Purpose Wall in less than 4 seconds is now a required skill for employment.


Jim says: "Proceed with caution; this is a free-for-all comment zone. I try to correct or clarify incorrect information. But I can't catch everything. Please keep your posts focused on Gannett and media-related subjects. Note that I occasionally review comments in advance, to reject inappropriate ones. And I ignore hostile posters, and recommend you do, too."

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.