Thursday, May 02, 2013

By the numbers | USAT's digital revenue growth

USA Today's digital redesign last fall was a bold departure from the previous look, one meant to boost digital revenues by thrusting advertising more front-and-center on the page.

Gannett's chief digital officer, David Payne, wonkishly explained it this way: "If we can port the marketer's experience into our flow and put it elegantly in our environment, we make advertising part of the content."

The change, accompanied by a redesign of the print paper, came in mid-September: near the end of the third quarter. And it arrived in the nick of time, because the fourth quarter would be especially newsy, drawing potentially millions of new readers.

Yet, the revenue results have been mixed, according to a review of GCI's quarterly financial statements. First, consider these year-over-year changes in digital revenues at USAT and its associated businesses, starting with last year's first quarter:

USAT's digital revenues in Q1 2012 vs. 2011




Q1 2013 vs. 2012

As you can see, third quarter digital revenues soared nearly 70%. Some of that would have been the redesign, although it was only in effect two weeks. More likely, that surge was due at least as much to the Olympics in London, and the white-hot presidential race after the summer conventions.

But what the heck happened in the fourth quarter? The new USAT website and mobile apps were firmly in place for the entire period. The general elections were early November. Yet, digital revenue growth lost steam, barely growing 28% from a year before.

And, yikes: In this year's first quarter, USAT's digital revenues grew just 9.1% from last year, when the paper was still running the old website and apps.

To be sure, big growth rates nearly always taper off as the base grows larger and larger. But USAT is very early in this cycle, so that seems less likely to explain the drop off during the most recent quarters.

What's going on? Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write jimhopkins[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the rail, upper right.


  1. Another big USAT newsroom name has just announced, via Facebook, that he's taking a buyout.

  2. Who! Tell us who!

  3. I'd rather wait for a more public announcement.

  4. They have said there will be no public announcement since these are private decisions -- or perhaps they don't want to say how many have taken the buyout, which is close to 40. In any case, if they post it on Facebook it is because they want to spread the word to their contacts and colleagues -- especially since USA TODAY is not going to release anything.

  5. Digital revenues are falling because of tHe piss ass poor design change and the crap thats available on the website. Juvenile high school.

  6. If it is on Facbook it is public you idiot. I don't care if the account owner makes their account for friends only, nothing is protected. Once out there it is out there.

    And do you really think public affairs is going to send you a buy out acceptance offer list?

    Across all departments? What's left? Only editorial and advertising.

  7. About 35 editorial, 40 overall

    1. 35 in editorial would be around 10% of the newsroom, right?

      So, how is the remaining staff -- and its workload -- being reorganized in response?

  8. No one knows. Probably a lot less staff reporting, a lot more AP and press release rewrite. And animal videos.

    1. Animal videos. Oy. This one of a kitten puking has been viewed more than 31 million times. 31 MILLION!


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