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The Cold Filtered Ramblings of Gene Mueller

The new USA Today

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USA Today was a big deal when the first edition hit the Radio City doorstep 30 years ago.

In fact, it never landed on the pavement--it was hand-delivered, as I recall, by excited reps of a newspaper the likes of which we'd never seen before.

 

USA Today had color--lots of it--along with pie charts, graphs, and far shorter stories.   It was national, too, and critics wondered how the short-attention-span-no-local-content daily would fare.  Some thought it was light on content, short on depth and destined to fail.

It thrived, as papers did back in the day before digital media.  Now, it's time for a re-do.

The newly redesigned paper premiered Friday morning.  Their website follows suit this weekend.

 

USA Today, like other papers, is feeling the pinch as more and more of us get our news off laptops, desktops, tablets and phones.   Ask your kid if they know what USA Today is, or if they've ever picked up a copy.   Expect a quick "no" or maybe a blank stare.

USA Today is fairly indispensable in my business--it was virtually impossible to be properly prepped for an FM morning show without scanning it's "Life" section.   I still use it on TMJ, but I haven't held a hard-copy of the paper in years.   I follow on Twitter, plucking off the day's big stories as they're posted.

Is it coincidence then, or irony, or just plain good business sense that Gannett (USA Today's parent company) is using the web as the basis for its redesigns.

Everyone in the communications business is trying to figure out how to make a buck off a web presence.   Those who carry the "baggage" of old media--radio, TV and newspaper--are trying to do so as they see customers plucking their content off the Internet gratis.

Our appetite for news hasn't changed--if anything, it intensified, with people demanding information NOW.  They don't want just print, either, or even the spoken word.   The want pictures and video.   They EXPECT it.   And, they want it for nothing.   Redesigns and new websites are one thing.  Will they generate revenue?  

30 years ago, USA Today was worried about making it in a world where it was the new kid in town.  The colors, graphics and short stories went on to change the industry which would mimic USA Today's success.  Now, the maverick finds itself in the same boat with the established papers it was once fighting on your corner newsstand.   Both are trying to stay relevant and profitable in a digital world that few saw coming.

 

 

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