Gannett introduces its local newspapers to the 24-7 world

The Gannett Company is planning to shift all of its 89 local newspapers (not USA Today) over to 24-hour converged newsrooms in an initiative called the Information Center Project.

The Gannett Company is planning to shift all of its 89 local newspapers (not USA Today) over to 24-hour converged newsrooms in an initiative called the Information Center Project.

Each newsroom is required to submit a plan for the shift by mid-November, with plans being implemented by May 2007.

The newspaper company has been testing the plan with three of its newspapers: the Des Moines Register, in Des Moines, IA; The Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, SD; and Florida Today in Melbourne, FL.

This shift comes at a time when circulation for many papers is on the decline and Internet media is taking over as it is better able to cater to people's need for news at their discretion. The shift will include spending more time on Web efforts and integrating the print and online staff.

Why does it matter?

"This is a huge boon to anyone who is Web savvy in the PR industry," said Pete Snyder, CEO of New Media Strategies, an online market intelligence and word-of-mouth marketing firm. "There will be so many more people who will now be in the content business that you can be pitching as a PR person."

Snyder added that this has its drawbacks as well. "It will make it harder to contain damaging stories," he said, "but on the proactive, positive side, it will make it easier to get your clients coverage. It will be easier to get a small hit for a client and have that virally expand across the Internet."

Five facts:

1 Gannett's papers have a combined circulation of about 7.3 million, which includes the 2.3 million contributed by USA Today. According to Nielsen in April 2006, Gannett's total online Internet audience averaged more than 23 million unique visitors per month.

2 Papers like The New York Times  and The Wall Street Journal  already work on a 24-hour news cycle, breaking news via their online counterparts and using other forms of new media to engage audiences.

3 According to research by the Newspaper Association of America, users that access newspaper Web sites are more desirable to advertisers than other users of the Internet because they are more online-intensive and tend to be more highly educated.

4 Gannett is also tapping citizen journalists, i.e. bloggers, and other non-journalists as a means to bolster its online efforts and create unique content for its Web initiatives.

5 According to Nielsen//Net Ratings, the papers with the five top online editions are The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times.

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