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Next Up: USA Today...Books?

Usatoday_2Gannett wants to extend and build upon their USA Today brand.  Makes sense.  Business 101, right?  But books?  According to this story, the USA Today logo is about to pop up on books from six different publishers shortly...six different publishers!

The first question I like to ask before scrutinizing a deal like this is "What does the brand stand for and what do you want it to become?"  Maybe I'm just a jaded business traveler, but USA Today has never meant anything more than "that colorful paper, dumbed down for the masses and my only common news source while on the road."  IOW, "I wish I could curl up with my hometown paper, but this one will have to do for now."  Assuming my narrow-minded impression of the USA Today brand is legit, what are Gannett's brand extension options?

Part of the deal makes sense.  The USA Today name makes sense on desk calendars and even puzzle books, although that's always seemed like a cut-throat, razor thin margin business to me.  But "25 Years of USA Today" and "The Making of McPaper: The Inside Story of USA Today"?  Does anyone (outside of the newspaper industry) really care about either of those topics?

The whole notion of USA Today trying to extend into the book world seems like the opposite direction Gannett should be heading in.  I know they just went through a fairly major website relaunch, but if this were my business, I'd be focused exclusively on non-print initiatives.  What else can I be doing to extend my brand online?  What new ways can I experiment with to deliver online pieces of news content?  How about audio?  What are they doing on that front?  Why not offer a service that gets me the latest headline news on my MP3 player for the ride home each day?

What are they doing to create a better craigslist?  How about taking a page out of the Disney play book and developing a next generation gadget that would deliver customizable news right to the desktop?

IMHO, they could publish dozens of books every year and it wouldn't have the branding (or revenue!) impact of the results they could produce with more innovative online initiatives.

P.S. -- Six different publishers?!  I'm sure specialization and niche leadership came into play in all this, but I hate to think of the branding coordination nightmare this is likely to create!

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