USA Today Networked A Big Month

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The website for Gannett’s well-known USA Today newspaper shifted to a “network journalism” model in early March, and so far the returns have been very favorable.

Over a month later, it’s still strange to see the changes at USA Today when visiting their site. Reader comments cycle through at the top of the page, while stories have links to Comments and Recommend along with their headlines.

The whole look and feel of the site changed dramatically, and a number of USA Today visitors found the update jarring enough to respond negatively to USA Today editor Ken Paulson’s discussion of the new networking features. Don’t say social networking or citizen journalism, though; in USA Today’s world, it’s the age of network journalism.

Many people have responded well to the relaunch. USA Today said they have increased visitor rates by 21 percent, and many have registered for the site’s advanced features. To date, over 40,000 user comments have been tapped out on their stories.

I asked executive producer Joel Sucherman of USAToday.com about the commenting taking place. As one might expect, he cited some hot-button issues as ones gathering lots of interest, like the fall of radio legend Don Imus over his commentary on Rutgers women’s basketball. Iraq and Hilary Clinton’s Presidential aspirations, both major national news topics, likewise attract plenty of interest.

It’s been the smaller stories that have pulled in the most compelling comments. Sucherman said reports on weight loss, adoption, and health, stories that by themselves aren’t on the same scale as the headliners, generate the most interesting feedback.

He cited the scandal at Walter Reed Hospital as one that drew a number of personal stories, including one from a doctor who formerly practiced at the facility. USA Today reporters have followed up with some of those commenters to further develop their observations into articles.

USA Today Networked A Big Month
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  • Susabelle

    I HATE the new look and have said so to USAToday. I just want to go read my news, in out, done in 20 minutes. But no, I have to wade through their convoluted system of getting to news, and then I’ve got the stupid comments thing flashing at the top (uber-annoying, I don’t want to hear people’s opinions on ever story I’m reading or I’d be over at MySpace). I just want to easily get to and read the news stories that interest me the most. Right now, every page is like an ADD-induced dream, I have NO idea where to focus my attention and can’t find just a simple link to stories, it’s on the left, it’s on the right, it’s across the top, flashing on the bottom.

    And don’t even get me started on the “Man living with wolf” movie promos going on on almost EVERY page right now. Yeah, I REALLY want to see a man gnawing on raw meat when I’m trying to enjoy my coffee and bagel for breakfast.


    • jeffman 3

      Oh come on now. You can’t follow this website? Please. My apologies, but it doesn’t speak well for you that you can’t navigate this site well. It’s really not as hard as you seem to make it out to be. The links are right there! Point and click; it’s Internet 101, my friend. Maybe is just the way things are today: everyone has to have everything laid out for them perfectly, and if not, they are thrown completely out of their comfort zone.

      • Susabelle

        I can’t follow it because it lost its consistency.

        Used to be that the same block of links appeared at the top of every page. That is gone, now, when I click on an article, the only way to get out and find the next stuff I want is to back up, rather than to just click “life” or “tech” or “news” at the top.

        The lack of consistent look is really the biggest problem here. I never know where I’m going to end up when I click on a news story. I miss that consistency.

        I don’t want to hunt around for things, I only have limited time to goof off and read news and etc., and I just want to get in, read the stuff I want to read, and move on to other things.

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