|Today's edition detail, Newseum|
"Right at the moment, we're obviously looking at a lot of things," she said, according to Seeking Alpha's transcript. "We can probably talk more . . . later in the fall."
But now it appears Corporate already had a price increase in the works. Readers tell me USAT's cover price will jump to $2 -- double the current one. The change will be effective Sept. 30, one reader says. It would be the first increase in five years.
[Updated at 6:30 p.m. ET: USAT has now confirmed the price hike.]
Any change at the company's marquee brand will come as Gannett relies more than ever on circulation dollars to bolster the top line: overall revenue. But it's a risky move because many readers will balk, further reducing USAT's circulation volume, once the nation's largest. That would cut even more into print advertising revenue, which management presumably hopes to offset through the higher cover price and more digital ad sales.
Bye-bye, ad sales
The plan would be part of a broader campaign to slowly wean GCI off print ads from its biggest and most troubled business, newspaper publishing, as it pivots toward digital and broadcasting with the $1.5 billion deal to buy TV company Belo by year's end.
The quarterly numbers tell the story. In the second quarter, circulation revenue rose about 12% across the 81 U.S. community dailies after the company imposed big subscription rate hikes last yar. At USAT, however, circulation revenue fell 11%, CFO Victoria Harker told analysts.
That resulted in a net circulation revenue increase of 6%, or $280 million, and substantially offset a $318 million decline in overall newspaper ad revenue during the quarter.
For the quarter, circulation revenue rose to 21.5% of $1.3 billion in companywide revenue. That was up from 20.2% of $1.3 billion the year before.
At USAT, circulation volume has been falling precipitously since the fall of 2009, after The Wall Street Journal overtook the paper as the nation's top-selling daily, when digital subscribers were included. In the most recent reporting period, the end of March, USAT fell to No. 3 after The New York Times marched ahead, also as a result of digital subscription growth. USAT doesn't have a paywall.
Circulation once 2.3M
For the six months ended March 31, USAT's circulation dove 7.9% to 1.67 million copies. Its national rivals surged: The WSJ jumped 12.3% to 2.38 million, and the NYT soared 17.6% to 1.87 million. The shifts also meant USAT lost its status as the No. 1 selling paper in print to the NYT -- one of its last bragging rights.
USAT last raised its cover price to $1 from 75 cents in fall 2008, just as the Great Recession was deepening. At the time, it was the top-selling newspaper, with an average 2.28 million copies sold.
The New York Times' cover price is $2.50, and The Wall Street Journal's is $2 in many markets.
Martore said Corporate would likely be able to talk about any USAT initiatives in the fall. That probably means mid-October, when GCI reports third-quarter results. Those initiatives almost certainly include a plan code-named Butterfly Project to inject even more USAT content into the community dailies.