Newspapers are now emulating the web

September 25th, 2012

ThinkTech Hawaii

USA Today, owned by Gannett, former owner of the Honolulu Advertiser, has had a "makeover." Its hope is to "reinvigorate the brand" and “reinvent a news business.”

They want to be a news company rather than a newspaper. They want to combine and share news resources among their 82 newspapers and 23 TV stations. They want to build a single national news desk for all media. They want to mix video and print on their website and get their reporters to carry cameras.

USA Today has the second highest circulation in the country, behind the Wall Street Journal, but its ad revenues are nevertheless falling so this is a good time for a facelift. Some say the brand should have been refreshed a decade ago.

The new look comes from the web, heretofore unconventional for the print press. It includes reader comments from Facebook and Twitter, has more color and graphics and looks more like a website running on an iPad. The writing seems to be in shorter bursts, like website writing.

What does this mean? Will it work for Gannett? Will it show other newspaper owners a new way? Will it save money, improve revenues and help them stay in business? We’ll see. For now the jury is out.

Sure it’s a capitulation to mobile apps. The very same people USA Today is trying to appeal to may have already committed to news on mobile devices, and maybe the makeover is simply too late.

If it works, maybe it will offer a model that will extend the life of print papers. But in the long term, the direction seems obvious, sorry to say, even for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

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