Tuesday, June 16, 2009

USA Today Looks to 'Man of Steel' for Help

USA Today, the flagship in the Gannett Co.'s newspaper chain, endured a 35 percent drop in ad revenues in the first quarter of 2009, on the heels of an 18.5 percent decline in ad revenues for the fourth quarter of 2008. Meanwhile, circulation figures for the national daily sank to 2.3 million copies, 1.3 million of which were distributed to hotels, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation.

Gannett executives have confronted the dire numbers and reached the same conclusion--this is a job for Superman!

Beginning July 8 and running for 11 consecutive Wednesdays after that, USA Today will run the adventures of Superman, the flying strongman from Krypton, and his alter ego, Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for The Daily Planet. The July 8 full-page strip will appear in the print edition and the remaining 11 strips will run at www.usatoday.com. The move coincides with D.C. Comics launching "Wednesday Comics," in comic book stores. "Wednesday Comics" will feature superhero members of the D.C. Comics stable, including Batman, Hawkman, and Sgt. Rock (he of the rugged facial scar), in a broadsheet format (14x 20 in.) selling for $3.99 apiece.

USA Today, which launched in 1982, has fallen on hard times like the rest of the newspaper industry, losing readers to television and the Internet and ads to Craigslist, Monster.com and other online sites. With the same kind of forward thinking that print journalism has shown in its struggle for survival against Internet competition, USA Today has put its faith in an icon that originated in the 1930s. Sorry, Gannett, but look no further than "Superman Returns" (2006), Brandon Routh's less than star-making vehicle, that cost $270 million to make and generated domestic ticket sales of $200 million from a jaded American audience that prefers hunky Wolverine and teen-angst ridden Spiderman to the straight-arrow Superman.

Sadly, although it lacked a color weather map, The Daily Planet is thicker and more news-laden than USA Today and never seemed to worry about advertising lineage.

1 comment: