Screen shot 2013-12-11 at 11.06.29 AMThe New York Times today reports that Gannett plans to announce that it will be adding 12 to 14 pages of content produced by USA Today to 35 of what it terms its “community” newspapers. The NYT reports that those newspapers that will see the new content in January include The Tennessean in Nashville and The Cincinnati Enquirer. Word on the street is that the Asheville Citizen-Times will be included in that list of 35. (The Citizen-Times already contains one page of branded USA Today content – it is page 2, the flip side of the front page.)

The plan is to eventually push the content addition to all of Gannett’s 81 newspapers, the NYT reports.

The Gannett project – dubbed “The Butterfly Project” by company officials – was put in place at four newspapers starting in October. I also hear that Dave Neill, the Citizen-Times‘ new publisher, will be playing a key role in this new initiative.

Gannett officials are spinning the effort as adding value to its local newspapers, which likely means it will be charging subscribers higher prices. The move will also boost USA Today’s circulation, which in turn will allow it to charge advertisers higher rates.

From the NYT:

Gannett’s announcement represents a shift for a company that recently has focused on expanding its broadcast holdings. In June, Gannett bought the Belo Corporation for about $1.5 billion in cash and added 20 television stations to the 23 it already owned. Mr. Kramer said that while the company was applying a television “network affiliate model” to its papers, the company remained committed to its newspaper assets, which would still provide roughly 30 to 40 percent of its revenue.

“We still have a significant business in newspapers, and we have to treat it the way you treat any business,” he said. “We felt like we had to invest in it.”

Gannett executives said they tested the new inserts in 23 markets and quickly learned that while readers liked their sports content blended into a single paper, they wanted their national, money and life coverage contained in separate sections.

To me, the move sounds like more of the same: lipstick on a pig; deck chair rearranging; naked desperation. Gannett continues to cut employees and resources, then creates a plan like this to “add value.” What’s your take?

Image link for USA Today.

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17 Comments

  1. The LAST thing I would want added to any newspaper to improve it would be “USeless-A Today”.

  2. Citizen Times has been using USA Today as filler for a while now. This isn’t anything new. Print media is dead. It won’t surprise anyone when it costs $2-3 for a newspaper that will mostly be full of ads.

  3. I am so disappointed in all this and will never volunteer for the Citizen Times Marathon again. We received a letter that “due to accounting issues” our non-profit will not be paid till 2014. Our non-profit, stood in the cold for 6 hours to man an aid station, will not be paid till nexy year. The race was at the end of September, This effects over 50+ organizations that are barely hanging on. There will be a petition circulating soon for everyone at our school to cancel their subscription. Thanks for nothing Citizen Times, screwing over your own community once again. Any help you can give us get the word out ashvegas ?

  4. luther blissett says:

    I took an online survey some months ago that was related to this project: standard questions on whether I’d be more or less likely to buy the C-T if it bundled USA Today sections in place of the stuff that the local papers currently get in syndicated form and reprint. (My response? Ambivalence.)

    In the meantime, I’m tempted to pay money to the Raleigh News & Observer, because it actually covers state government, which matters at a time when we’re increasingly subject to direct rule from Raleigh, courtesy of the Grand Moff.

  5. WalMcNews from AnyWhere USA (TM)

  6. They’ve been squeezing their newspapers, which despite the hype, are still profitable, to fund the transition to digital for years. So they’ll cram 14 (more) pages of national USA Today pap into what is supposed to be a “community” paper, and they’ll continue to fire local reporters and editors, or hey even better – close up altogether & “cover” Asheville from Greenville SC.

    Can this town really not support a genuine local news venue?

  7. Have you noticed the Mountain Xpress looks more and more like something Gannett produces.

    Did some big publisher buy the Mountain Xpress?

    • The Mountain Xpress doesn’t cover anything but local news and covers city and county government extensively – so no, I don’t think it looks more and more like something Gannett produces.

  8. Just what the CT needs (tongue firmly in cheek) more canned crap from Gannett.

    AVL (and the surrounding area) has enough going on that could fill the 10 or so pages each day!

  9. It’s not a dead business model and I wouldn’t call it lipstick on a pig exactly. It does point out the great divide between Gannett’s corporate bosses and the local papers it produces. Gannett is determined to show that corporate knows best. I don’t get how shoving generic “network” content into a local paper will boost local interest (subscribers) in that paper. That content is probably available from some other source. Why not boost local content that’s not available elsewhere?

  10. It’s more evidence that a they are unable to survive with a dead business model.

  11. H.D. Wimbledon says:

    Strip the wire for more paywall content.

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