How the USA Today analogy falls apart

Craig Dubow likens Gannett’s unsettling “transformation,” now underway, to the birth, 25 years ago, of what is now the company’s flagship newspaper. “USA Today did not happen easily or without pain,” Gannett’s CEO wrote last week. “It was not conceived, launched and accepted by customers in a fluid, easy progression. No one involved at the beginning knew for sure what it would be in the end. In fact, USA Today is still changing and, hopefully, always will. That is what innovation and transformation are all about: vision, hope, execution, pain, confusion, fear, failure, revision, excitement and then — only then — success.”

I’d add one more crucial element of innovation Dubow didn’t mention: A sustained net commitment of capital. Even with all the employees borrowed from other company newspapers during USA Today‘s start-up, Gannett also invested tens of millions of dollars over years and years before the newspaper was deemed a success.

So: Can the current transformation succeed when we’re relying solely on existing resources — or worse, as it appears, when we’re trimming expenses (read: employees) to shore up the company’s stock price? Can we truly say we’re committed to transformation when we insist on keeping those legendary 25% profit margins?

What do you think? I welcome your thoughts in the comments section, below.

[Image: That’s the front page of USA Today‘s debut issue, Sept. 15, 1982]

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