1- What opportunities in the marketing environment did Gannett seize in launching USA Today? How did the company learn about and respond to these opportunities? Garnnett noticed two trends or opportunities in the reading public and took advantages of those trends. The first one is the increasingly short attention span among a generation nurtured on television, the second is the growing hunger for more information. The newspaper’s primary mission was to provide more news to their readers in less time. They targeted the young and well-educated because he noticed that they were busy and care about the news (they targeted nontraditional newspaper readers) unlike their competitors. Typical readers turned out to be professionals, usually managers, about 40 years old, well educated, with an income of about 60,000$ a year. USA Today capitalized its market opportunities by listening to their readers.
They provided personal level communication, provided news in a clear, upbeat, positive way. They were also the first color newspaper and captured readers using a TV set like distribution box. They were very unique and out of the box. In addition to this, Gannett’s research had shown that readers get most of their information from such snippets and they were also interested in sports, more reviews, and health information so he didn’t just limited it to traditional news, he added diverse news about several topics like sports. I believe that the company knew about opportunities by closely communicating with their customers and conducting research and responding to their costumer’s needs by continuously re innovating and adding values to fit the reader’s lifestyle and interests.
For Instance, when they knew that a lot of their readers are not only interested in traditional news, but they are also sports junkie they added more subjects like sports, lifestyle, and events. They also changed the width, made the paper slimmer and easier to handle to fit in airplanes and tight spaces. When USA Today at their beginning found the traveling business people a potential target segment they targeted them by selling to airlines. Than they also started selling to hotels, and they also started bulk selling (incorporated the blue chip circulation strategy), on the road in the US, on the road internationally as well.
2- How has a continuous strategy of marketing innovation proved successful for USA Today and USA Today.com? Do you believe that USA Today is well positioned for the future? Explain. While the USA Today has long been critiqued as a journalism lightweight, it has a history of innovation in adapting to changing audience tastes. Many publishing veterans sniffed at USA Today in the early days, believing its formula of short stories without jumps, large infographics and generous use of color represented a dumbing down of news. It was derided for its shallowness and labeled “McPaper”. A few years later, nearly all of them had adapted the same style.
Ever since, USA Today has solidly established itself as a national institution with a readership of more than 1.8 million. It was a pioneer in adapting short, choppy articles, get to the point, casual writing style which the readers admired, and this style was later mimicked by its competitors. Their main successful innovative strategy here was creating a “national newspaper written in shorter pieces than the traditional paper and sprinkled with eye-catching, colorful photos, graphs, and charts. Designed to address the needs of a sound-byte generation”.
During its early growth, the paper didn’t recognize the potential “business travelers” segment who were interested in news from back home as well as sports news, so when they rushed and targeted airlines, the competitors felt threatened and became aware of the changing reader needs and they started re innovating or benchmarking with US Today by adding colors, shortening stories, and adding new sections.
USA Today being innovative as usual responded to these competitor’s upgrades in its own distinctive way. In terms of product innovation, it has been able to reengineer itself journalistically by shifting the paper to more serious news oriented product to stay ahead of the imitative competition, while maintaining its culture of innovation. They also added unique value, added features like the customer hotlines where they could call to get expert information on financial planning. Not only this, they also initiated a high school “Academic All star program” that was later expanded to include colleges and universities. With the increasing ubiquity of the internet, they altered the money section by focusing more on technology issues and look at business from an e-commerce perspective. In 2000, US Today was redesigned to make the paper easier to read and cleaner in design and to fit in tight spaces.
As for the promotional innovation they undertook a “bus capade” promotional tour in the U.S. and a “jet capade” promotional tour in 30 countries. Both were very successful and led to publication of US Today International. Garnnett’s first strategy to attract or enroll advertisers was a partnership plan, “which provided six month of free space to those who purchased six months of paid advertising” of course that was a very smart and appealing offer to many advertisers, they were also flexible with the categories of the advertisements. The company accepts a variety of regional advertising as late as 6:00 pm the day before publication. As mentioned earlier the paper incorporated “blue chip circulation”, bulk selling to hotels and restaurants.
They also deviated from the traditional norm and started offering advertising space on the front page which generated a lot of money and further success to the company. When it comes to the distribution innovation, US Today’s main strategy was to deliver fast news. That’s why they added print sites around the world to speed up distribution. They also added an innovative readership program that allowed US Today to be brought to more than 160 college campuses. With the technological advances, the paper became easily digitally produced and that gave readers earlier delivery times.
3- What are the SWOT implications for USA Today as it looks toward its future? What strengths and opportunities can USA Today leverage as it looks for a competitive advantage in the distribution of news and information? Strengths:
1- USA Today is the second largest – selling daily newspaper in the United States. It Circulation had rapidly grew from 350,000 in 1982 to approximately 2.3 million today. 2- USA Today achieved rapid success due it innovative format: written in shorter pieces, using colorful photos chart and graphs, practical columns and at-a-glance boxes. The paper communicates with readers clearly and directly and it also faster to read and easy to handle thanks to its slimmer pages. Thanks to it late deadlines, the paper delivery more timely news that other papers. 3- The newspaper has a 1-800 and 1-900 “hot-line” numbers that readers can call for expert information on financial planning, college admissions, minority business development, taxes and other subjects.
4- USA Today offers an online version, USAToday.com that is one of the internet’s top sites for news and information. It allows readers to receive up-to the moment’s news with colorful visuals a crisp audio, weather forecasts, travel information and access to the paper archive from the 80s to today information. 5- The paper offers USA Today International, which is available in more than ninety countries in Western Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. 6- USA Today is widely distributed via newsstand retailers, large grocery store chains, bookstores, coin-operated vending machines, and directly to the customer through home delivery. Complementary distribution occurs primarily in hotels, airport terminals, and restaurants and at the college campuses and it’s also available in e-formats from the web page, mobile phone access and e-mails updates.
7- The company uses innovative promotion activities, like the “BusCapade” promotional tour and readerships programs for college students. The company accepts a variety of regional advertising as late as 6:00 pm the day before publication. 8- Another point that is a strength for the business but a weakness for the content is the emphasis on features, sports and entertainment in news coverage. It is a strength because they are simple stories journalists can do to keep the newspaper and the websites populated with content, which means they can produce more stories in less time. However, it’s a weakness because it underscores a common complaint that USA Today cheapens news coverage which is negative for the company’s image. Weaknesses:
1- The economic crisis affected USA Today to a great extent because they reply heavily on the money that came from advertising. Most of the advertisers were in the housing, retail and automobile industries and those industries are facing major troubles on their own so they are cutting costs including advertising costs. Moreover, the travel industry and hotels have been affected negatively by the economic crisis, which mean emptier hotels where USA Today counts half of its circulation in door to door deliveries. 2- USA Today has always been battling the fact that many people thought it was cheap journalism. Although they invested a lot in improving the quality of the content.
1- The reason Washington post had an edge over USA Today in terms of stock prices is mainly because of Washington Post’s subsidiary Kaplan, which provides mentoring services and educational services, so may be USA Today should consider diversifying and creating a similar venture. 2- There’s an opportunity to monetize full event calendar listings that newspapers have not embraced yet. Taking the phonebook model, publications can list every event for free, but event promoters can pay more for highlights, icons or extra lines of text. 3- USA Today may have the weight to try something new. If it partners with Amazon.com and offer to send a free or discounted Kindle to paid subscribers, they could save a large amount of printing costs
Threats: 1- The readers move to viewing content for free online is hurting the massive print ad revenue of newspapers. As a newspaper’s target demographic grows older, the youth are not replacing them, instead choosing to frequent websites like Facebook or Myspace instead. They may get their news from blogs that are not professionally edited and verified like twitter. 2- Online advertising competitors such as Google will continue to be threats, as will new technologies that no one has envisioned yet. 3- The environmental movement and recycling culture have discouraged readers to subscribe to the newsprint editions, because readers will feel the papers are killing trees. 4- The economy is going to be a threat long after it had recovered, because the repercussions of this downturn will be left in the financial structure of businesses during recovery.
4- Based on USA Today’s experiences with print and online news, evaluate the long-term potential of printed news and the newspaper publishing industry. Do you believe that printed newspapers will continue to survive despite digital competition? I believe that the trend is moving towards digital and that print is dying due its high costs and also the environmental concerns that customers might have. So I would recommend shifting the bulk of focus on the digital division because it has many smart companies that has nothing to do with journalism but have the potential to be solid profit makers with any renewed focus. The downside is that print is the real income earner in the company in terms of revenue. But the digital evolution is inevitable and its forcing the advertiser to adjust and become used to a different format. Print will not be around forever and focusing heavily on digital is risky but it’s a needed move.
Since print is by far the biggest profit maker, I think USA Today should find new ways of adding value to print. They might want to insert coupons, giveaways, valuable inserts such as CDs, posters, puzzles or anything that could enhance the experience of print. Besides that there is an opportunity for developing for niche markets, including customized magazines the readers can create themselves by selecting the kind of content they want.
They could also try “reverse publishing” online content. Each USA Today news website has a social network where users are allowed to blog and comment, they could have editors select of those posts and publish in their newspaper or into a new niche magazine that can target advertisers looking for a younger demographic. This gives advertisers exposure they wouldn’t get online, and it’s inexpensive to implement. The tough times in the journalism industries are inevitable, it becomes difficult to fund news. Therefore, newspapers and organizations may seek a completely separate business to generate profits until the economy booms again. The Washington post succeeded in doing that. US Today entered a few related business other than journalism, but they need to step outside their comfort zone even further.