Is USA Today's 'Social Media Lounge' A Little Late To The Party?

With legacy newspapers falling by the wayside and CNN worried that Facebook and Twitter might be stealing its thunder, is it any wonder that USA Today would want to rethink how to interact in the Web 2.0 environment? The old slogan if you can't beat 'em join 'em couldn't be any more apropos as traditional media outlets either mimic or recreate best practices found in the social media space. But in either event, is USA Today doing too little too late?

It appears from their press releases, USA Today is looking for ways to engage the reader where they can jump-start conversations about what works best for them. However when you go to their newly created microsite, it doesn't appear to be much more than a blog and event site, called the Social Media Lounge. Not to say they should create a full-blown social network after other legacy newspapers like the Wall Street Journal have failed at trying  - but then what exactly is the number one newspaper in the land trying to do differently?

Even the Web site was not easy to find. It took me a couple of attempts searching under variations of "USA Today Social Media Lounge," as their Web site URL is not intuitive; i.e.  And while you can link to the 'blog' page from the 'Social Media Lounge' site, for the life of me I could not find a link on the blog page that linked back to the microsite?

It does appear that there is an organizational shifting of personnel. Wendy Matney, USA Today's director of digital marketing announced the development of a social media team and the addition of a staff member Brian DresherBrian Dresherto the digital marketing team. Former online Alexandra NicholsonAlexandra Nicholsonmarketing manager, Brian Dresher has moved into the role of manager of social media and digital partnerships, while Alexandra Nicholson now heads up social media strategy. She was previously the paper's Communications Manager.

In addition to manning a USA Today corporate Twitter account, the pair will helm the USA Today Social Media Lounge blog with the slogan "We're all in this together." Their promo pitch describes the microsite as "a living, breathing look at what USA Today is doing every day through marketing, communications and social media efforts." Readers can also expect "tips, case studies, best practices and general feedback on social media."

Doesn't sound too revolutionary? Yes, there is a Twitter feed on the blog. However when you review USA Today's Twitter account, while they have built a sizeable following of 46,300+, they in turn are only following 89 users. For a news organization that wants to engage with their readers, they're not setting an example here.

USA Today's main Twitter AccountUSA Today's main Twitter Account

However, in their defense, they have created a new Social Media Lounge profile, and while they only have 1822 followers, they are following 1903.  However, it's curious as to why  this account is titled, "USATMediaLounge" and not the intuitive name, "USATSocMediaLounge" or "USATSocialMedia"? Perhaps too many characters, I guess?

USA Social Media Lounge Twitter accountUSA Social Media Lounge Twitter account
But the real proof of the social media pudding came when I searched on Google News using the keywords "USA Today" and "social media" and only came up with 2 blog postings. Either my theory presented in this blog is correct, or USA Today hasn't yet put enough muscle behind this whole 'Social Media Lounge' promotional idea?

Google SERPs for USA Today & Social MediaGoogle SERPs for USA Today & Social Media
With only two "News" SERPs (search engine result pages), I hope this doesn't mean that there just isn't enough interest in this topic and my blog will end up in the Google News graveyard, along with these other two.

Your thoughts readers? Am I missing something here, or has USA Today missed the social media boat?  And if "We're all in this together," I hope it's not a sinking ship?USA Today missing the boat?USA Today missing the boat?