Thursday, June 14, 2012

USAT Sports Media in another 'marketing' deal

Stretching ethical boundaries again, USA Today Sports Media Group has agreed to be a "marketing partner" with a professional sports company its journalists ostensibly cover.

The deal was disclosed at the end of a Courier-Journal story this morning about a big change in the way horses are chosen to run in the Kentucky Derby every spring in Louisville. Churchill Downs, where the race is held, is calling the new qualifying system "Road to Kentucky Derby."

At the bottom of today's story, the C-J says: "The USA Today Sports Media Group, whose parent corporation Gannett also owns The Courier-Journal, is a marketing partner with Churchill Downs in Road to the Kentucky Derby and Road to the Kentucky Oaks."

No more details are given, including whether any money is changing hands between the two entities. USAT is using the C-J story on its website, with the same one-paragraph disclosure.

Under longstanding industry ethical practices, newspapers strive to avoid any appearance that advertisers and other businesses are unduly influencing business coverage. Gannett's ethics policy explicitly warns against such conflicts of interest.

In a February update to the policy, CEO Gracia Martore wrote: "People trust the integrity of our actions and know we have the courage and conviction to do what must be done."

Report: what USAT promised
Eric Crawford, a widely read C-J sports columnist who quit the paper this month to join a local TV station, wrote about the marketing deal in his own story today about the new qualifying system, and added some details.

"As part of that marketing partnership," Crawford says, "USA Today has agreed to update the 'Road to the Kentucky Derby' standings twice a week, on Monday and Friday, in its print edition."

He added: "USA Today Sports Media Group is entering business arrangements with many sports entities, including the PGA and Major League Baseball, as well as with many blogs and other online media sources, which often link its affiliated papers with entities they cover and, in some cases, competing online publications in their cities."

Launched last year, the Sports Media Group has entered a high-stakes race of its own. Corporate has promised Wall Street the new business unit will generate an additional $300 million in annual revenue by 2015.

Some of that will come from advertising. But an unknown amount will come from these marketing arrangements, where Sports Media has promised to boost news coverage of, say, professional golf or NASCAR auto racing, according to group President Tom Beusse.

Earlier: Pay to play, at a 'friendly' USA Today.


  1. Stretching ethical boundaries? USAT does more than stretch. Lines are crossed all of the time -- internally with personnel and journalistically in the product.

    Ethics and USAT are not two things that go together. In the last five years, what little ethics there was went out the window.

    The public is being sold a news product that is put together by a bunch of people who are in over their heads in every conceivable way. People who have no business being in journalism.

    That is not to say their aren't still qualified journalists with some integrity at USAT, it's just that they are in the minority and have been told to basically shut up if they don't want to get laid off or work the midnight-8 a.m. shift.

    Furthermore, USAT has a long history of questionable marketing and circulation-growth strategies that have been questioned in books like "The Chain Gang." Now that business isn't booming like it was when USAT and Gannett were merely dabbling in unethical behaviors, reporting, etc., they are stooping to all sorts of desperate new lows.

    It amazes me that the concept of good old fashioned hard work and quality content is never considered as a way out of this mess. Instead, USAT is always looking for some new gimmick to attract readers. Its leadership will sacrifice 100 loyal employees before considering other cost-cutting measures.

    Ethics? Doing the right thing in business, marketing or reporting...? Gosh, it's a laughable concept at the nation's newspaper. How can you have ethics when the basic culture at the paper is to spin, lie and deceive employees, readers and advertisers every way imaginable? How can there be professional ethics when the managers at this newspaper (some past, some present) created an environment of greed, selfishness and betrayal?

    1. Amazing all of the managers are evil and all of the employees are "loyal!" interesting world you live in. Let me guess, you're not one of the evil ones?

  2. What is the "news partnership" that USAT and the SF Chronicle have at the US Open this week? Has Beusse cooked up another gimmick?

  3. I think this is a great idea. Mr. Beusse keep doing your thing!!!! More partnerships, more revenue, more stability. Go Tommy, Go Tommy, Go Tommy!!!!

  4. This is what happens when an information company strangles its two most valuable assets: its employees and its credibility.

    The public is not fooled.
    Look at the numbers.

    1. Oh wrap a Jeep ad around it, would you?

  5. Tom Beusse is many things. "Tommy" is not one of them.

  6. This NASCAR-style scheme was the lead story of this morning. Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants pitched a perfect game last night -- and buried that story.

  7. Nothing new here. USAT has forced stories into print to accompany paid ads for years. This is merely the latest partnership.

  8. No news partnership at the US Open. Just another set of party suites for blue chip hotels.

  9. See Phoenix' award winning publisher for questionable deals and ethical breeches. Or Usa Today's failed verticals strategy.

  10. tommy can you hear me? The caliber of your content is plain awful. to wit: the contrived Nats/Yankees rivilary piece passing itself off as a news story. Awful writing and premise.
    The kirk gibson "story" also contrived.

    Since when are we judge and jury? Why is this even o the website?


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