And for all the paper’s digital growth, Mr. Kramer acknowledges that, like others in the industry, he is wrestling with how to make money online. Gannett’s growth in digital publishing revenues, which includes online advertising, is slowing. To spur revenue, Gannett has put up paywalls at its local papers, but Mr. Kramer says the company has not yet decided whether USA Today will charge readers for its content.
For now, he and USA Today’s editor in chief, David Callaway, are coming up with all sorts of strategies to drive Internet traffic. All of the paper’s journalists have tools allowing them to track the online viewership of their stories. An electronic board displayed prominently in the newsroom tracks overall top performers. Reporters are not penalized if their articles do not make the list, but their skills at promoting their articles online are considered as important as front page bylines.
In addition to Social Media Tuesdays, they run informal contests to motivate the newsroom staff of 430. Competitions have included who can create the most viral headline or add the most new Twitter followers in a given time.
A premium is placed on reporters’ speed and digital output. Because search engines give higher rankings to USA Today’s original content rather than wire service stories, Mr. Kramer has insisted that 95 percent of its digital content is produced in-house — and goes up quickly. Only 15 percent of the USA Today online stories run in the print edition. “Reporters have to write 5- and 30-minute stories,” Mr. Kramer said.
USA Today Goes Viral