An independent journal about the Gannett Co. and the news industry's digital transition
Amateur night in McLean.
7:10 Not really. What a great night. Congrats to the whole USAT marketing team for a job welldone!
I watched 3 people in 3 stores go right past the USA rack wondering where the paper was. They all had to ask if they still carried the USA Today. Another one elsewhere finally found it, picked it up, squinted at the tiny type and put it back down again.From a bold, majestic front page to an almost unnoticeable one. YUCK.
Once in your life -- if you're lucky -- you may get a chance to work on something this big, high-stakes, fast-moving and game-changing. If you've never written software code or managed a large fixed-deadline project team (several hundred people), you won't understand the miracle that the USAT relaunch represents. You'll focus on the glitches and gaffes and spats. But if you've ever tried to do any of those things, you'll know this is a home run. Jim, you might be able to do a better job for your readers if you do some reporting and redesign yourself. Try to unpack for separate coverage everything in this rollout: redesign of the logo; redesign of the print edition, including addition/subtraction of major editorial features; radical redesign of all the digital products; and replacement of the digital production system, from the front end through the middle layer down to the foundation. Baked into the new software are radical new ways of working for reporters and editors and producers and programmers and designers. The cultural changes this allows/demands will take months to play out. They will not always be pretty. Your readers will want clear details because this relaunch reveals the paradigm that Gannett's board and CEO have chosen, for better or worse. The effects will be even wider. At least the page-turning and ad-serving models will be copied. I don't like some of the changes but there's no doubt this project is a triumph of reinvention.
I completely agree 8:43, what a big disappointment. YUCK.
Dear 8:52 am: Why don't you share some of those "radical changes" for reporters, editors, et. al.? You sound in the know. I'm a reporter in USCP land and I'd love to know how this will affect what I do. If it makes me more effective, better able to connect with my community, bring it on. If it's change for change's sake or another cost-cutting measure (i.e., more consolidation)than I'll be among the complainers.Oh, and my take on new packaging: I've noticed that food product packaging redesigns almost always are tied to a decrease in the amount of product in the package--and there's usually an increase in the product cost. USCP has gone that direction. I'm afraid USAT will be the same.
9:06 the new website and posting system will roll out to all sites over the next year. It will change your local game.
Big disappoinment and how much money invested in it.How many will be layed off next quarter,that is the real question?
I like the logo, the campaign, and I recognize that the employees needed a confidence booster with a big fancy party. But I don't understand why so many people were happy last night. Don't they realize their furloughs paid for the $1mil+ party? Are they really willing to take a lower salary in order to have a fun party for 3 hours?
Anyone who could look at the new logo -- with the lifeless, generic typeface and the absurd big, blue dot -- and say this is innovation at it's best, is simply yet another Gannettoid afraid to say the emperors have no clothes.It is -- even by Gannett's standards -- a testimony to mediocrity. (Actually, 'mediocre' would be a step up from what I'm looking at.) Small results come from little minds ...
What say you, Charles Apple?I say: FAILWho'll start the hashtag #USATFAIL
What a surprise folks here hate the new look of the paper, the pretty and after tomorrow the web site!
OK, let's just try lending understanding to one thing -- since the vast majority of us weren't in on the apparently wealth of brilliant meetings conducted on the topic. I just want one logo cheerleader to provide clarity here:What the hell is the blue dot? What's it supposed to symbolize? Why is a plain, blue dot supposed to be better than the iconic and well-designed globe symbol?
Not for nothing but Banikarim recycles, she doesn't rebrand. This stuff is vaguely familiar. Stunk the first time around too. She never stays in spot long enough because she needs to escape the stench she left behind. USA is now so yesterday.
9:55 Thanks for stopping by Maryanne
I spent 20+ years with Gannett and am now fortunate to be with the senior leadership of another newspaper company and we are all laughing out loud at the big blue dot! What an incredible marketing failure. How much money, focus groups etc...was spent on this, 50 cents? This is NOT the Gannett I use to love, Al has got to be ashamed.
Heh 10:02 how much is your stock up today? I'm laughing all the way to the bank.
10:02 another newspaper company? Please share your companies' great financial successes.Crickets, crickets, crickets
I'm sitting in a meeting watching a presentation on a 24 months continuous rollout plan for digital and mobile. Unbelievable what these folks are doing. It really is exciting!
People will take profits today but it is good to see the stock moving in a positive direction.
9:55 has it right. If all of our records are correct, she'll be leaving Gannett immediately following her bonus check.Her playbook is the same from company to company.Way too familiar.The logo is meaningless and generic.
9:55 - Yes, I noticed this too. The marketing messages are the exact same ones that were rolled out for the 25th anniversary - almost word for word. I'm surprised that Maryam and Micek didn't change the messaging at all. Did they think no one would remember that this has been done before? Very strange.
So glad to work for a company where blue ball jokes pass for leadership. Yup.
Look at the section fronts.The Life ball is a turning leaf representing the cover story on fall television shows.Sports ball has a cowboy hat for the Jerry Jones cover story.For the Nascar Chase section the red sports ball morphed into a racing helmet.The ball is a template for graphic connections to the day's content.If you want to focus on just the blue ball on page one, have at it. There is more to it than a blue ball.I had nothing to do with the redesign. I'm just a 25 year employee out in the field. But, I'm certainly willing to let this play out and see how consumers respond. I can see the intent and am hopeful for the execution.In the end, the content has to be there to support the design. We're all hoping Larry and team will be given the resources they need to make that happen.
So what's everybody's thoughts on Maryam's most recent email with the little essay on Blue Balls by Sam Ward?
Do all the marketing campaigns you want, change the type and fonts and page layouts etc... but why change the brand logo? We've spent 30 years building the brand, in movies, magazines, TV placements, why throw it away? Does Nike drop the swoosh?Changing the brand identity is paramount to starting over or trying to save a dying brand...
Maryam Banikarim is the antithesis to "Top Chef". She brings the same recipe of disaster to every brand she touches. Apple better watch out should she set her sights on them next, she'll rebrand them to a lemon.
My observation from the comments here over the past 24 hours lead me to believe we have two clear camps re. opinions on the relaunch:Group A ("the blog bullies"). Comments are snarky, cynical, even personal, and overwhelmingly negative. Look, I can understand that Gannett/USAT has let a number of people down over the years, and I'm cool with the venting...to a point. But specific to the redesign, those in Group A aren't really showing through their comments an indication that they attended the redesign launch or understand it. As a result, I'm tuning you all out. And Jim, as a friendly warning, please do not pull the juvenile routine of "redlining" the launch release as a way to demonstrate your bias that it is all about the content. You do a fair job with the blog imo, but you show a limited business view (outside journalism and editing) when you pull that stuff. To be clear, it is about the content, but it's not ALL about the content. You are better than that.Group B ("the realists"). Comments indicate that the jury is out on the new logo and redesigned newspaper. I for one need time to let it grow on me. I think there is an understanding within this group however, that care has been taken to drive greater alignment between design, content, and delivery. From what I have seen, the intent to "morph" the logo as appropriate to drive context to the content is an interesting approach. It also appears to be more cohesive with the digital delivery strategy. We'll see if the graphics within the balls works, but it is intriguing and a risk worth taking. To the realists here, I join you in tempered optimism that USAT has made the right decisions on the redesign. I do think the company has taken a step in the right direction. I hope consumers and advertisers agree. To the bullies...what is there really to say?
11:49 I'm asking whether it's enough about the content.
11:49, this "bully" says, you need more "BALLS".Trying to prove to yourself what a fabulous writer or master of the english language you are? Blogs are for opinions. Unfiltered opinions. This woman deserves all the vitriolic venom she receives and some. have a great days and good luck with growing a set.
If it was all about content, this blog would have been shuttered long ago!
11:49: As an occasional reader of this blog who does not work for Gannett, here is my unbiased, nonbully opinion: the dot design is garbage and looks ridiculous. To think that people actually had meetings about this is beyond hysterical. Want to redesign the paper? How about trying something new such as making the content relevant, interesting and oh my, investigative. Get over yourself.
11:49 I always love the "not an employee and occasional reader" Not buying it. You worked in Marketing right?
11:56 bully. Not sure if 11:49 is a master of the English language, but you surely are not! You have a "great days" too. lol
1:06, "lol"? Big difference between a typo and using internet slang. I guess you're not a master of the English language either. Have a great day. Better?
USAT is now officially the poster child for the cluelessness of the news industry.
1:51 you crack me up. Wishing it doesnt make it so
1:43, no, I never worked in marketing or any other Gannett department. I just happen to enjoy good, strong journalism and always have. I grew up in a home that valued newspapers and always made news part of the family conversation. I know good reporting when I read it and, sadly, I know crap when I read it. I'll just continue to follow the bouncing BALL and hope it leads to better reading.
I would really love to see the 'other' ideas that were presented.I am just stunned that people were paid money to come up with such a simplistic, boring, bland look for what is supposedly the nations foward looking, creative, cutting edge newspaper!
Oh, the ball is OK. Looks up to date, and people will get used to it.It's also illuminating to see Jim madly adding thread after thread in an almost crazed attempt to get some traction somewhere. You can almost seem him sputtering, "but...but...but..."
How long before the balls are for sale as ads?
The irony of this full-circle trajectory, from blue ball to blue balls, is almost too much to handle. That no one bothered to tell the folks who were hired to come up with this blue ball redesign of the tragic history of its symbolism is akin to Borden brand cheese choosing an axe as their logo. How could you miss it???????That nightmare before Christmas, where three good employees were fired for a silly, stupid act for which they apologized profusely WAS the beginning of the end, as much metaphorical death as the move to Tysons itself. In that move, and in that incident, USA Today completed the transition from a fun, trend-setting, chaotic place to work to a corporate, silent, phone-it-in place running on fumes.That's not to say it wasn't corporate before. The embarrassment of riches that defined the early, Al-Neuharth-has-gold-bathroom-fixtures-era was gross even in the early 90's. But everyone laughed at it together, 1000 Wilson versus 1100 Wilson.But once the paper moved to Tysons, there was no laughing. It all stopped that night. It stopped when Paul Whyte, bless his heart, was told to take down his silly, singing bass fish. (He was scolded that it wasn't dignified enough for the new building.)But we're a newspaper, people said--aren't we supposed to have silly singing bass and messy desks? No, came the resounding answer. Aren't we supposed to have chaotic newsroom conversations and loud arguments? No, sit quietly at your desks and work in silence, came the answer. Aren't we supposed to be in the heart of the nation's capital area, right among the stories and people we cover? No, drive to an anonymous building in the middle of nowhere.The blue ball incident put the final nail in the coffin of a paper and a company that went from a fun place to a horror show in no time flat. Furloughs, layoffs, sports editors having to re-apply for their jobs, staff photographers not being sent to the Olympics--it's all right there in that damn blue ball.Maybe the logo designer did get the memo after all.
I cannot stop laughing. So glad I'm no longer associated with this piece of shit company and its blue balls! What an embarrassment.
I keep thinking about the childrens show where the little blue ball would bounce across the words of a song as you sang along...
3:48 the whole negative gang is the same way. They are focused on a blue ball rather than the bigger picture. USAT is on the national radar screen for the first time in ages. The advertising plan was presented today and it is incredibly creative and aggressive. Yep, keep commenting on the blue ball folks. It says more about you than the company. It's like the Presidential candidates talking about NPR when all anyone really cares about is jobs.
If Stewart/Colbert don't chomp down on Gannett's blue balls I will weep
As objective as I can be, the colored circles (they're not balls) come across as visual gimmicks that might work for a kindergarten textbook or section-front ads for Twister. I can't relate to them at all insofar as better news coverage or journalistic erudition go. I understand why publications use redesigns to rejuvenate reader interest, but with all the graphical images at its disposal, Gannett elected to go with polka dots that are nothing less than vapid.
5:09 Gannett's chief marketing officer guaranteed that everyone would keep talking about the blue balls by sharing that e-mail with the entire world.
Jim, I won't be sharing the email with anyone. I am extremely embarrassed by the whole campaign and am sad to be associated with this company. If people are passing around her email and it is the most read email in the entire world, it's not going to encourage people to buy a newspaper because Gannett now has "balls". This whole campaign is juvenile and crass, just like our leadership.
I just asked my father, a reader of USATODAY for 30 years, his thoughts on the redesign: "It sucks," he said. And yes, he already cancelled his subscription. OUCH! His chief complains: type size and yes, the puzzle page. Gannett should know by now to never Fuck with the comics or the puzzle page. DONE.
Beautifully said 4:15. Many of us have long memories. What an awful company.
Very few if any blue chip advertisers showed up in the issue. Nothing more to know.
You want to re-disgn? PUT some fucking news in the product and not just a few paragraphs of a story. The paper and all Gannett papers are RAGS, Fuck the blue dot
So,they now all have Blue balls in the front office, or Vasocongestion.
Not a hater, just really don't like the new usat print look. Lots of amateurish errors, the vendors were pimped out for ads (would have loved to have heard those conversations, imagine CCI and the paper suppliers buying an ad!) and the typography is an ugly and tiring eyesore. Good night and goodbye, usat, we loved you so and now you have died and the parts are being reused to become Binky's monstrosity.
Maryam you are the most narcissistic person ever to walk the halls of USAT and your immature missteps, like sending the blue balls memo , negates anything positive you tried to accomplish. please just go away.When you are done spending millions inflating your ego , people will likely lose jobs again.
I was in two airports and a hotel today and did not see a single person pick up the paper and read it . I 'm glad the employees feel good but in the world at large nobody noticed nor cared .
11:44 thanks for stopping by Maryann.
I really like the redesign. I was traveling today and the airport stores were sold out. Kra.mer has a hit on his hands. Now we need to keep up the MOmentum
Larry the font size is too small. Noticed it right away. At my age that is an issue
Maryam is the laughing stock of twitter. check out Muckrack.comEveryone is making fun of her memo.... From nytimes Carr to Business Insider. geez what a PR nightmare!
I get both sides of the discussion. Lets just say the redesign is mostly good, with the exception of the Blue Dot. Our CMO will continue to misstep. And we probably blew an opportunity to relaunch the website at the right time. Lets move on. We need to build a faster, better product. That means far bigger change ahead for the newsroom. Thos is what we should be focusing on.
1:21 - How do you expect to build a better product when you are led by such juveniles who don't get what a newspaper is about? Look at the individual sites who are struggling to survive because they get no support from the higher ups. What the fuck does this company stand for? How can the shareholders and the board sit by and watch the destruction and let it happen? I am truly baffled.
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."
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