USA Today to Lay Off 130 in ‘Radical’ Restructuring

Nine percent of paper’s workforce to be eliminated

The USA Today announced on Friday a major restructuring that will result in about 130 layoffs, or about 9 percent of the company’s 1,500 employees.

The paper is spinning it as a “reflection” of its “evolution from a newspaper company to a multi-platform media” operation – though the industry’s sinking fortunes have no doubt driven the company to realign. The USA Today has an average daily print circulation of 1.8 million, making it the largest U.S. paper in terms of circ.

In a presentation to staffers, executives said the paper will focus less on print and more “producing content for all platforms.” (Click here to view the presentation.)

"This is pretty radical," president David Hunke said. "This gets us ready for our next quarter century."

Interestingly, it appears that USA Today conducted "outside interviews" with other newspapers — including the Guardian and New York Times — about their organizational structures before finalizing the reorganization plan.

"What we learned," one of the presentation's slides reads. "The first 30 minutes of covering a news story is critical (think Web­first); [t]he best are organized around coverage teams or pods — empowered to move quickly … and they have a very lean structure with an emphasis on content creation."

"We'll focus more on the first half hour of a breaking news story, especially if it's on our core beats," the presentation continued. "So if Tiger Woods crashes his car, we throw everybody we need at the story immediately and we beat ESPN and CNN. And then we'll come back aggressively, on Day 2, and in a week or a month with a deep investigative look, if appropriate."

The presentation noted that copy desks will be working an "earlier day," and that "we'll be posting (and editing) stories all day, not for a 7-10PM editorial close."

As part of the realignment, five new departments are being set up at the paper:

>> A digital development department which will focus on “developing and maintaining technology and systems to support USA Today's existing dotcom, mobile, iPhone and iPad platforms.”

>> A vertical development “dedicated to the creation and implementation of new as well as existing vertical content areas.”

>> An unnamed department — led by new hire Rudd Davis — that will “develop and secure new business opportunities and partnerships including brand licensing, content syndication, acquisitions and joint ventures.”

>> USA Today Sports — led by former AOL Sports GM Ross Schaufelberger — which the company is going to market as its own “national” brand.

>> The paper will no longer have separate managing editors for its sections. Instead, the “content group” consist of "content rings" and be headed by Susan Weiss, who had been the editor of the “Life” section. She’ll report to John Hillkirk, editor of the paper.

A slew of other appointments and title changes were announced, too — you can read about those here.