Wednesday, December 11, 2013

GCI extending Butterfly Project to 35 newspapers

As expected, the initiative to add dozens of editorial pages plus a local edition of USA Today will be expanded to another 31 dailies vs. the current four, according to a Gannett statement this morning. The rollout will take place during the first quarter. Corporate didn't identify the 31 titles.

Further down the road, GCI plans to extend the program to all of its 81 local newspaper markets, according to The New York Times.

Asked whether subscription prices would rise for readers getting the extra USAT content, Corporate's chief spokesman, Jeremy Gaines, told the NYT: “As we introduce enhanced products, consumers tell us they are willing to pay for the added value we’re bringing them.” (Translation: yes.)

The 35 papers that will be part of the Butterfly initiative have a combined circulation of more than 1.5 million on weekdays and more than 2.5 million on Sunday, according to USAT. That shows the 35 were chosen according to a metric other than circulation, such as annual revenue, because the highest-circulating 35 have combined volume of 2.4 million weekdays and 4.3 million Sundays.

This morning's announcement follows a relatively short test of the Butterfly Project since early October at four dailies in Fort Myers, Fla.; Indianapolis; Rochester, N.Y., and Appleton, Wisc. The expansion is designed to increase advertising and circulation revenue at the local level, plus ad sales and circulation volume at USAT.

Related: Corporate's press release highlighting this morning's UBS media conference.

40 comments:

  1. I guess Project Death's Head Moth was already taken?

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  2. So how much will the cost of these papers be going up?

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    1. Well, in Rochester, my seven-day subscription is now 30 bucks plus tax per month. With the extra USAT section, and USAT sports pages, the paper appear to be fatter. But the devil's in the details, and as a former editor, story count means more to me than a 30-inch story and a photo that could run half the size and still do it justice. Stories are longer, photos are larger, and story count is lower -- all this for thirty bucks a month. I must be nuts!

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    2. Same here in Rochester: Received my monthly bill and it is $35.50 for December when I was paying $26.50. That's a 34% increase for content I don't want. Think we're done...

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    3. Everyone's cost is different depending on the ZIP code you live in. If you live in an affluent area you pay more. Fact.

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  3. I would like to see the PROVED, that readers(not consumers), would pay for junk, that did not ask forf or want. This sounded like ,"bait and switch."

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    1. My in-laws are subscribers to the Indy Star, and I got a chance to see this section on Thanksgiving. It's a whole lot of nothing.

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    2. What do you mean? It is MORE. That's what the ads they run keep saying. I guess more of WHAT?

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  4. when they do this to the Detroit Free Press and if the price goes up, I'm done. I hardly spend time reading the dead tree edition as it is, and it tends to arrive after I've left for work the 3 days a week that it does get delivered. If I wanted USA Today, I'd steal one from a hotel lobby.

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  5. I like this idea because I like to read USA TODAY but can't get it delivered to my home. However... I'm afraid this "increase" in newshole will actually result in LESS local content. My paper, The Clarion-Ledger, continues to do a good job in Sunday print but the rest of the days are pretty think and some days it's downright atrocious. Some extra national news, especially with Sports and Politics, would be great, but the Sports section is already small and unless they increase it by 5-6 pages a day I don't see this being good for local content.

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  6. Has anyone who's been laid off been told they're going back to work to handle the extra pages?

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    1. Give it up, venter. You are NEVER going to be brought back. Your workplace knows it's better without you.

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    2. You sound like a passenger on the Titanic before it started sinking, laughing at the passengers in lifeboats.

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

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  7. I actually think the butterfly is a pretty good idea, if the intent is to save the flagship from sinking, but it require a bit more than just inserting X amounts of USAT pages into a local rag.
    Occasionally we see the same story or brief, both in "our" sections or on the front page, as well as the Design Center provided national page. Knowing that it is basically a cut and paste job, with little or no oversight, I fear those mistakes will triple wit the addition of the USAT pages.
    To make this a truly good idea, the local paper need to cut everything national and international, including sports, and add their talent and creativity to the local and state content.
    Just slapping extra sections of fish wrapper inside, without a bit of content check and management, will make this a waste of ink and paper. Freeing up local resources to do what they do best, local news, can make this a success.

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  8. Set your course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship.

    Omar N. Bradley

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  9. You are looking at the way USA TODAY will be delivered in the not so distant future. Costs won't equal ad and circ revenue and the company will choose this low cost option as a way to keep the brand alive. We will then try and sell this as a "national buy" to advertisers who will undoubtedly see it for what it really is. And yes, local news hole will almost certainly shrink further.

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  10. A friend in Greenville indicates it's supposed to be one of the first-quarter sites.

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  11. 9:41 makes very good points. as a former editor who saw our resources shrink and shrink and shrink, I know what they are up against at the local shops. I see this as a good thing for the local papers, IF they are able to figure out how to separate the national and local news. This will be especially important in Sports. The best way to do this is to make the local shops completely forget about national news and let the USA TODAY insert handle that. But I do see some huge F-ups coming and some huge headaches for the 1-2 night editors left trying to sort this out every night.

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    1. Having witnessed Butterfly in action, the desk people at the local sites and the Design Studios really need good communication to make sure that there is duplication of stories. The only issue that ever really cropped up was one or two particular designers a) believing they knew better on stories should be used or b) not being a good judge of how much space is available on various pages.

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    2. Why would there be any chance of duplication if all the local news is in the "A" section and all the national/foreign news is in the "B" (USA Today) section?

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    3. I'm not aware of any duplication in the news sections but in sports where it is all one section, the desk folks and the design people need to make sure they plug a national story in the non-USA Today part of sports that is going to be in the USA Today part of the sports.

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    4. But what if something happened like it did on 9-11. Would the local paper take the cover story or would USA today cover it since it is national?

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    5. We are told we will have option to run a full story and photos out front and refer to other coverage in butterfly or just run a front-page promo to butterfly, as one current butterfly user did when Mandella died.

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  12. Makes no sense. What will pay for all that extra newsprint? What about the big digital push? If it doesn't work, how do you go back and cut 8-10 pages out of your newspaper? And it makes individual properties much harder to sell, because the new owner would lose half the content instantly.

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    1. To quote our publisher in answer to the question, "What is the plan if this doesn't work?" The pub's answer: "There is no other plan."

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    2. The plan to pay for the extra newsprint is twofold - (1) increase subscription rates with increases similar to teh "full digital access" rollout as now there's "More" content to justify the increase; (2) build scale with distribution that can be added to USA Today's national footprint to increase ad sales.

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  13. Rumor swirling around the tower is Hunke is being brought back to run Butterfly. He is just negotiating the number of SVPs and VPs he can hire. Company wants 4....Hunke asking for 15.

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    1. Hunke already thinks Butterfly needs a complete transformation.

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    2. Transformation of Butterfly has begun. Hunke wants to re-name it Eagle.

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  14. Does anybody have a list of all the properties being added during the first quarter? I'm curious if the other Indiana properties, the Lafayette Journal and Courier, Muncie Star Press and Richmond Palladium-Item will join the Indy Star??

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    1. These papers will soon all be absorbed by the Indy Star and it will be a statewide paper.

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    2. Actually, The Indianapolis Star will neither absorb Gannett's other Indiana properties, nor will it become a statewide paper (too costly to distribute). Instead, top leaders at The Star slowly will assume regional editorial oversight of Richmond, Muncie and Lafayette, a Star editor recently said. Essentially, Indiana will join the list of regional publishing operations. The Star will need those resources, too, because its newsroom has been bleeding staff through departures and hobbled by unfilled vacancies.

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  15. Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., is being added. They had a story about it on their website yesterday (that drew no comments) and then placed that story on the front of the metro section today. To me, it was worth a short in the biz roundup, not a front-page metro story, but Leslie is all about trumpeting whatever she perceives as good deeds, as few and far between as they are.

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  16. Coming to Shreveport in Feb.

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  17. Louisville also announced it is coming, didn't say when.

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    1. Jan. 26 in Louisville

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  18. Green Bay will add it in February: http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/article/20131211/GPG03/312110271/Press-Gazette-add-USA-TODAY-sections-local-coverage

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  19. The Desert Sun in Palm Springs will launch Butterfly on Sunday, Dec. 15.

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  20. Palm Springs and Lafayette, La. join the Butterfly family tomorrow (Sunday).

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