By Cam Ellis, Special to the Alliance
USA Today is a name that anyone in the news media industry is well aware, but some of their most recent ventures might not seem as familiar, or for that matter, as traditional, as what you’re used to.
On Tuesday afternoon, two representatives from USA Today, Aimee Jolley and Daphne Lowell, took the stage to give listeners a up close and personal look at what sort of changes are underway.
“We needed to extend our brands beyond our current platforms,” Lowell said. “We need to offer [consumers] memberships, experiences, and many other things that we haven’t been offering. By uniting, we united our community, united our neighborhood, and united our country.”
During this reshuffle, USA Today has united 109 local markets. That movement is meant to represent Gannet moving from a traditional media holding company to a united network within one organization. The numbers are staggering. Together, USA Today has collected and united 3,500 journalists across 110 sites. They’ve racked up 110 million unique users per month, and estimate that they’re reaching 39 million millennials. Despite the success, they know their work has just started.
“We need to move past original revenue streams,” Jolley said. “We have to move away from viewing customers as demos. How do we scale successful events.? How do we build engagement? We can achieve stronger recognition by updating our brand with visual consistency. We want to know how to better go to market with a strong message.”
While some of USA Today’s new efforts make look unconventional to the untrained eye, the decisions they’re making and directions they’re taking have already begun to start bearing encouraging results. One aspect that’s been particularly successful is the company’s move into the event-holding business. As Lowell puts it, the fit was natural.
“It just makes sense for USA Today to break into the industry,” she said. “It allows us to go after younger audience. We all know how hard it is to reach millennials. We want to know how can [we] connect with this younger audience?”
What’s in it for them? New revenue, high margins, new clients and audiences, unique content, renewed branding, engaging experiences, were just a handful of the things discussed.
“We have a national sales team that does their job pretty darn well,” Lowell quipped. “Secondly, we own the media in those markets, so we can promote event. It’s a win, win, win for all of us.”
In 2017, USA Today is scaling 3 main events: a Food and Wine experience, a Taco Festival, and “The Sports Award.” They hope to target a very different and specific audience with each one.
Not only are they holding events, but USA Today is beginning to get into the business of establishing unique memberships. One of those, named XAZ, is a membership designed to explore and promote tourism in the state of Arizona. According to Jolley, the program currently has 12,000 members, and all the events planned are sold out. It’s just one of the many things that USA Today has on their horizon.
“The USA Today Network will continue to innovate,” Lowell added. “Audience is at the core of what we do. We aim to develop new products that allows advertisers to connect. We want to reach out and establish relationships and experiences.
“The work is far from over, and you never know what’s next, but it’s an exciting time.”
Members of the News Media Alliance staff have contributed to this post.