Gannett is using its USA Today Network to go after a new audience: entrepreneurs.
Last month, the publisher of USA Today and a network of local newspapers launched USA & Main, a service journalism hub for small-business owners. USA & Main is an ad-supported part of USA Today’s Money vertical and has Verizon as a launch sponsor. The plan is for the section to become a standalone site with revenue coming from multiple sources, possibly including events.
To distribute USA & Main’s content, USA Today will use the 100-plus sites, including those of the Tennesseean and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, in the USA Today Network rather than social media, similar to the strategy used to distribute commerce content published by Reviewed or the sports content it creates through dozens of news wire sites that cover sports teams and athletes. USA Today expects that having an editorial footprint and distribution muscle in small markets will be the most important ingredients for USA & Main’s success.
“Any time we’re experimenting with new verticals where we had pre-existing expertise, that cross-pollination effect, we’re able to achieve critical mass,” said Michael Kuntz, president of ad sales and partnerships for the USA Today Network. “We believe we can very quickly scale.”
USA & Main is stocked with articles by USA Today Network staffers as well as content written by USA Today columnists and content syndicated from other publishers, including Motley Fool, the Associated Press and CNBC. Philana Patterson, managing editor of USA Today Money said a majority of the content is original, though declined to give percentages, saying only that she is “leaning more toward assignments” than repurposing existing articles. A pair of video series, “It’s Personal” and “Uncommon Drive,” which focus on entrepreneurs and the challenges they face, were launched specifically for USA & Main, along with a blogging series focused on self-improvement.
“We are in a lot of mid-sized to small communities where our staffers know small-business owners,” she said. “If we want to tell the stories of small-business owners or startups, we can.”
Many advertisers want to reach entrepreneurs and small-business owners, and having a dedicated section just for them was attractive to those marketers, Kuntz said. USA & Main is monetized through display, video and branded content.
Like most news publishers, Gannett is under pressure to prove that it can grow and diversify its revenue streams. Digital revenues did not grow fast enough to offset declines in its print advertising revenue during the first quarter of 2018; the company reports second quarter earnings Aug. 9.