USA Today Goes Mobile First For NFL Content

We live in an up-tempo world. Readers want to consume content fast and often. The question every publisher is grappling with is how to do it.

This week the USA Today blitzed this high-octane environment with a new mobile-oriented site, The Q, which is churning out stories that average between just 20 and 50 words. Many publishers crow about creating a mobile-first experience, but, in reality, they’re just taking a desktop experience and putting it on mobile.

The Q is built for the always-on, second-screen era. During games, The Q will be pushing out between 100 and 120 pieces of content that are either written or aggregated by the three main editorial staffers. (The Q also leans on content from USA Today’s sports writers.) On off days, fans get deeper analysis in short-form articles that stretch up to 250 words. The Q produces about 10 of these columns per day.

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“We built this thinking about how do sport fans consume news on the phone,” said Dan Shanoff, director of audience development at USA Today. “We’re starting from where we want to reach the fan waiting in line, at a bar, on a couch. How do we make a product fit with what they expect out of that platform?”

USA Today’s sports group, which also includes the relatively new site FTW, built everything from the CMS to the editorial style guide. Shanoff said that it’s built to translate well from mobile to tablet or desktop.

“If you read a lot of sports news, the reverse commute is tougher,” he said. “Translating desktop to mobile isn’t great.”

Earlier this year, Spin Media rolled out a mobile-first content site, Hearts & Foxes, with a similar philosophy. Instead, it focuses on entertainment content, which can also be fast and furious.

Shanoff founded Quickish, a startup geared towards sports content aggregation, in 2010 and sold it to USA Today last year as the Gannett publication began pushing deeper (and quicker) into the online sports world. Besides Quickish and FTW, Gannett bought Fantasy Sports Ventures, an online sports network, in January 2012.

“There are set rules in football, set ways to think about the game,” Shanoff said. “What are opportunities? How do I put my team in position to succeed? Maybe split linemen wide, or run plays at a face pace. In the same way, what’s the opportunity in the news space? What can we move faster? We’re publishing quick hits, short-form content.”