Monday, August 01, 2011

Dubow memo discloses 'relaunch' of core websites; board-approved plans include USAT sports network

CEO Craig Dubow sent the following message to employees today:

Craig A. Dubow
Chief Executive Officer

I want to take this opportunity to give you an update on the strategic plans we are undertaking to position Gannett for long-term success.

As a 100-plus year-old news and information company, our footprint in our communities is solid and deep. That footprint widens as we build our news gathering businesses digitally and give our sales teams more tools to help solve marketers’ needs. Our goal is to ensure that we become even more vital to our communities, consumers and customers.

On July 19th, we shared with the Board of Directors the strategic initiatives that many of your colleagues have been working on since February. And I’m excited to tell you that the Board members enthusiastically supported the overall direction we are pursuing.

Before I give you a sense of where we are headed, I want to highlight the ongoing rollout of DealChicken, which is now live in 10 of our markets. We have feet on the street in these markets and communities; we are adding daily deals to the suite of marketing solutions we offer; and we know the local businesses’ needs, giving us the ability to effectively serve both merchants and consumers better than the competition. We plan to have DealChicken launched in 50 markets by year’s end.

The reason I focus on DealChicken is because it’s a good example of how we are evolving not only our business, but also our culture to do things differently and work together as one company. DealChicken is a business born of a local market innovation in Phoenix that leverages Clipper’s existing deal platform Double Take Deals, and is now rolling out nationally. It was approved outside our regular budget cycle. And the speed with which it went to market – about 30 days to develop a business plan and about 90 days thereafter to launch – exemplifies our commitment to becoming more nimble, collaborative and bold.

But let me get back to telling you about where we are headed. At this past Board meeting, several opportunities identified by your colleagues as part of our ongoing growth initiatives were discussed. Four got the green light and are moving forward: the USA Today Sports Network; the re-launch of our core digital properties starting with; a digital video production center at WXIA (Atlanta); and the development of new local products and services for the advertisers we serve in USCP, Broadcast and Clipper.

Our plan is to spend the next 90 days further developing the business cases on other promising initiatives that resulted from these efforts, while simultaneously identifying the competencies and additional resources needed to build and execute on these plans. This next phase of work will be presented to the Board at our October meeting.

My commitment to you is to keep our lines of communication open so that you are kept abreast of where we are headed. Thank you for being at the forefront of delivering news and information as we continue serving all our communities.


  1. Somebody please translate what he said.

  2. Dubow says the board has approved the launch of the USA Today Sports Network.

    Is this the same venture as the USA Today Sports Media Group? I ask because USAT Publisher Dave Hunke said in early January that he had hired Tom Beusse to be president of the newly created media group. The timing would suggest that Hunke went ahead with a major initiative before the board gave its approval.

  3. 5:29 The only specific news I found was what I highlighted in my headline: "the re-launch of our core digital properties starting with"

    This, I assume, is the plan that Chief Digital Officer David Payne previewed to the digital staff within the past three weeks.

    A redesign of the USCP sites would mean that Payne didn't like the results of Project Odyssey, which produced the current template now used across the community newspaper division. That template was introduced only last year. is way, way, way, way overdue for a redesign.

  4. It's all happening folks. The haters can hate but the folks who crave action....our time is here!!!!

  5. "A redesign of the USCP sites would mean that Payne didn't like the results of Project Odyssey, which produced the current template now used across the community newspaper division."

    I have to agree with Payne. The design sucks.

  6. Note to Usa Today when you tackle the web redesign. Kill the blog format for reporting news. No one wants to read news that way.


  8. Refreshing to see some communication! I would like to see daily progress from the key divisions in the company that really tells us what is going on. I know you can't communicate proprietary information and business planning, but a daily/weekly summary would create a positive forum for loyal employees and lead them away from this "blasted blog." As a sales rep, it is easy to get lost in the negativity. Honest, open, candid communication could inject some trust into my team as well as others. Seems like you could find a way to control your message and lead the conversation rather than react to it or have someone else fill in the blanks,

  9. I hope so. is way overdo for a redesign. I hope someone is reading this, because God knows, no one ever asked our opinion.

    We absolutely should ditch the blog format for breaking news. It's a blog, which implies opinion, and therefore lacks the weight of "news story." It just doesn't seem credible and needs to go.

    And that whole "communities" moniker is confusing, artificial and sort of insulting. Whose idea was that? If it's a blog, call it a blog. Community is where you live. No one wants to think of themselves as living online. There are online communities, but they evolved naturally, over time, and not because someone decided to call them that.

    Also, please add a wire feed like the NYT and other websites have. We're posting a ton of wire stories anyway, but we're lagging because the homefront editors are trying to make these stories somehow ours when they aren't. Automate the process and everyone will be happy: Those who want the news now know where to go (instead of hunting through bogus "communities") and the homefront staff can concentrate on other things instead of scrambling to try to keep up with AP.

    Make a clear distinction between USAT stories and wire copy and SHOWCASE our stuff while we still have reporters in the building. We shouldn't be shoveling wire copy on top of our own stories. The brand is diluted as it is.

    And give the site some personality.

  10. 6:50 I agree on ditching the blog format for reporting news. It forces the reader to assemble the story in their head, all the while reading backwards. How is that a service to readers?

  11. Couldn't agree more with the criticism of USAT blogs. Take today's Tiger Woods "story," for example, which was reported in a live-blog format by USAT sports. It's essentially a tick-tock, minute-by-minute recap. No flow to it, no sense of news value. They're making the reader work really hard for the most important information. Like Jim said, how does that serve readers. And if they limited its use to a live-event news item, I'd be OK with it. But USAT kept that as their main sports headline in live blog format for hours. Come on, folks, rewrite the story at least so readers don't have to piece the news together.

  12. When I click on what is supposed to be a news story and land on a page that is in blog format, I leave and find a site that has actually written the story. Kill the blog format for news!


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