USA Today and its digital sites are about to undergo a major restructuring that will include building up digital marketing while phasing out the print edition, states Poynter.

According to Poynter, the deal for GateHouse’s parent, New Media Investment Group, to acquire Gannett, which owns USA Today, will not close for at least another month. “Nothing much will happen — or legally can happen — until then, and don’t look for this to be the new company’s first order of business. Winding print down could take several years.

“But two knowledgeable sources, talking on background, said a move away from USA Today in print is part of the calculations for the new enterprise. It makes a lot of sense, given the print edition’s deteriorating paid circulation and minimal advertising.

“Maribel Perez Wadsworth, USA Today publisher, commented via email:

““Gannett has no plans to discontinue the print edition of USA TODAY, which remains an important part of our business. Gannett remains committed to high-quality journalism for the communities we serve and our ongoing digital transformation, and we are pleased to have found a like-minded partner in New Media. We believe the combination of our two companies will transform the landscape in the print and digital news business and, following the close of the transaction, we look forward to delivering on the compelling benefits for audiences, customers, employees and shareholders.””

(According to an online report, USA Today cites data from the Alliance for Audited Media in its media kit that claims “an average daily paid circulation Monday–Friday of 726,906.” Poyntner reports paid circulation of 178,000, plus another 342,000 of hotel distribution, for which the hotel chains pay a substantially reduced rate.  Still, either the USA Today figures or Poynter’s 520,000 combined circulations (paid + hotel) is a massive plunge from the 2,289,000 that USA Today claimed in 2007 – when it competed with the Wall Street Journal for the lead in paid circulation.)

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