USA Today's Commitment To Social Media

In my previous blog, "Is USA Today's 'Social Media Lounge' A Little Late To The Party?" I talked about how some legacy newspapers like USA Today were in somewhat stalled position as to how best to work with social media. With USA Today's launch of their Social Media Lounge, I questioned if they were simply 'testing the waters' or jumping in with both feet. In a subsequent interview with Alexandra Nicholson, manager and social media strategist for the paper, she clarified some of these points and confirmed the paper's commitment to social media.

Alexandra Nicholson1- Some businesses shy away from social media because they don't see the ROI. What is USA Today's position on social media (similar to public relations) in not having a direct correlation to ROI?
Nicholson: We also understand the value of other forms of ROI – return on interaction and influence. For example, through the interactions by our journalists in the Twitter community, this form of engagement leads to higher interaction and influence within those micro-communities which in turn leads to higher traditional ROI on the back-end as these users visit our site whether in the short-run or long-run.
2- What types of analytical tools will you be using to determine the effectiveness of your department's social media initiatives?
Nicholson: We currently use Omniture and ComScore to measure traffic and are analyzing further monitoring tools specific to social media.
We also use Hitwise to take a close look at the per cent of traffic from social media sites to both USA TODAY and our competitors. Additionally, this past Monday it was announced that we are one of a handful of early partners with Awareness Networks to test their new Social Marketing Hub, which will allow us to further manage and measure our social media efforts,
3- What is the current percentage of online vs print readership? What was it in 2007?

Nicholson: According to MRI, our network readership number in November 2009 was 6.1 million people daily, in print and online. In 2007 that number was 5.4 million.
4- Will you be conducting any social media promotions? What goals, results, benchmarks, etc. would you be tracking to determine the success of these promotions?
Nicholson: Sure, we see immediate opportunities for social media promotions. We had great success in 2009 with a Facebook contest in partnership with Travelocity and we’d like to repeat that type of effort. With any social efforts, the most immediate return will be increased followers, fans and traffic.
5- Recently CNN noted that they were concerned that Facebook and Twitter were becoming the online user's main source for the news. How does USA Today perceive the real-time components of these social networks?
Nicholson: We view social networks as opportunities, not obstacles, because this allows us at the brand and journalist levels to expand and extend audience reach that would not be possible otherwise.
6- What other tangible benefits has social media surfaced for USAT? Anecdote(s) that may be interesting for our readers?
Nicholson: The most obvious benefit has been what adding social media tools to In 2007 we were the first newspaper to allow commenting and we’ve grown our social components to include a whole roster of moderated and curated online communities. In addition, our readers can message reporters, and each other, directly, and start their own discussion areas.
7- What is USAT doing today or in the future with social media that other legacy newspapers are not?

Nicholson: USA TODAY prides itself on our connection with our reader. We’re engaging with them on Twitter, we’re speaking to them directly on Facebook, our own website is socially optimized. We’re an inclusive brand and social platforms just give us another place to show that.

For the full response by Alexandra to my original blog, "Is USA Today's 'Social Media Lounge' A Little Late To The Party?" please see the comment section here.

Mar 26, 2010
by Anonymous

Social Networking and Newspapers

I think newspapers need to do a better job of understanding and working through either the current social networks or their own to define the niches that are important to their readers and create custom tailored information that speakes to those readers. USAT has the ability to mine that data on their social network to find the hobbies and interests of their readers and take that information to create more compelling stories that speak to the passions of those readers. If they find a niche of 10k to 20K of readers for a specific niche like snowboarding for example, they can work with the bloggers covering that specific subject and create interesting sections within USAT to keep the readers coming back to USAT and therefore keeping themselves relevant through a syndication model. If newspapers cannot change the way think about their readers, they will be wiped out by the 100's of thousands of niche sites in the marketplace therefore diluting any marketshare they once enjoyed.