U.S. News’ New Strategery

U.S. News' New Strategery

Several months ago, we wrote about the new online strategy U.S. News & World Report was beginning to pursue.

Yesterday the magazine heads announced to the staff a more specific vision: “In broad strokes, the new strategy will involve less routine newsgathering and features, more emphasis on forward-looking news analysis, more investigative and enterprise reporting, an expansion of the magazine’s franchise subjects like Best Hospitals, Personal Finance, and Best Colleges, and investment in the rapidly growing strength of usnews.com to make it more relevant than ever.”

“This strategy will involve significant changes in the job descriptions of a number of people, and we will be discussing these with you all in the weeks and months ahead, as we embark on creating a new model for producing the magazine and growing the U.S. News website,” Brian Duffy and Bill Holiber wrote to the staff.

The complete memo, as well as a laundry list of job changes, is after the jump.


September 21, 2005

TO: U.S. News Employees
FROM: Brian Duffy, Bill Holiber
RE: Strategic Changes

Over the course of the next few weeks and months, U.S. News will be implementing several significant strategic changes in the way we produce and edit the magazine, in addition to expanding several important new initiatives.

Everyone in the information business today–whether they are in newspapers, magazines, 24/7 cable networks or on the Web–is experiencing radical changes. At U.S. News, we have succeeded in navigating those changes to date by emphasizing the quality and integrity of the information we provide in the print magazine and on usnews.com. But as the smallest of the three newsmagazines–despite our unique strengths in education and healthcare reporting and investigative journalism –we need to do more. The magazine must continue to position itself ahead of the curve.

We already know that our readers want us to continue along the path we are taking. Over the past three years, in extensive focus group studies as well as through research conducted for us by Yankelovich, we have learned that U.S. News readers have a very clear idea of what they like and what they expect from us: journalism that’s fair, honest, unbiased and credible. They trust us and they hold us to a very high standard. We also know that they are thought leaders and influencers in their communities; they’re active, engaged consumers who are driven by quality and value, not status, and seek credible information on which to base key life stage decisions for themselves and their families. Who we are and who they are fit together very well, and we will be guided by their preferences and expectations for us as we take U.S. News forward.

In broad strokes, the new strategy will involve less routine newsgathering and features, more emphasis on forward-looking news analysis, more investigative and enterprise reporting, an expansion of the magazine’s franchise subjects like Best Hospitals, Personal Finance, and Best Colleges, and investment in the rapidly growing strength of usnews.com to make it more relevant than ever. In support of this effort, we will be expanding the number of unique partnerships of the type we have engaged in with Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and the elite hospitals and medical schools with which we are working to produce our newly expanded health website.

This strategy will involve significant changes in the job descriptions of a number of people, and we will be discussing these with you all in the weeks and months ahead, as we embark on creating a new model for producing the magazine and growing the U.S. News website. The profound shifts now transforming the information business make these changes necessary, but we are implementing them only after a complete review of every aspect of the magazine’s editorial operations.

As you all know, U.S. News has already begun implementing a significantly different editorial plan than other news organizations. Among our new offerings is the expansion of the health portion of usnews.com through relationships with the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins Medical Center, Harvard’s Joslin Diabetes Center, The Mayo Clinic, and the Stanford University Hospital & Clinics. The new site is scheduled to launch next month, and the object, as it is with all of the content in the print magazine, is to provide the most accurate and reliable information about health and health care on the Web. Further expanding the magazine’s health coverage, we have also entered into a partnership with the National Committee for Quality Assurance to help readers and visitors to usnews.com select the best health insurance plans. That feature also debuts next month and will be an annual offering of the magazine. A third, vitally important element of the magazine’s new editorial plan is a partnership with Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and the Center of Public Leadership. Our objective is to produce a unique and informative annual report on America’s Best Leaders, as determined by a broad, bipartisan selection committee. That, too, is scheduled to debut next month. These are exciting new ventures, but we do not intend to stop there. In the months ahead, we will be exploring a variety of partnership opportunities to further expand the range of content we can offer to readers.

The emphasis on the Internet will be crucial. In the relatively short time we have been publishing daily on usnews.com, we have seen an enormous-and enormously gratifying-increase in traffic. In August alone, we recorded over 22 million page views-up from 15 million in August 2004, and there is every reason to expect that growth to continue, and perhaps even to accelerate. Sustaining this vitality is critically important both for attracting younger readers and to satisfy the increasingly urgent demands of advertisers for “integrated” ad buys, both web and print. More and more advertisers now are looking to do business with publications that can offer them a presence on a highly trafficked website.

In recognition of this, in addition to the changes we will be implementing in the editorial operations of the magazine, we will also be putting in place a number of significant changes in the editorial operations. We are pleased to announce that Chris Haines, Karen Chevalier, Jill Konieczko, Margi Mannix and Tim Smart have graciously agreed to meet with people from all parts of the editorial operation to discuss how best to implement the new strategy. We both want and need your input.

Effective immediately, Chris Haines becomes General Manager of usnews.com, with overall responsibility for the editorial and business components of the website. Also effective immediately, Vice President/Advertising Director Kerry Dyer becomes Publisher of U.S. News, responsible for all magazine and online sales through a single, unified sales staff. Every one of the magazine’s sales representatives, in other words, is now responsible for selling usnews.com every day. He will report to Bill who continues as President of U.S. News and Radar magazines. To further that effort, Lee Wilcox, Senior Vice President-Marketing, has been promoted to Chief Marketing Officer for U.S. News, usnews.com, and Radar, in which capacity she will continue to report to Bill and work closely with Kerry, Chris, and the magazine’s Web team to continue to build traffic and drive revenue through the development and promotion of new features on usnews.com.

These are challenging times for everyone in the news business, but they are also exciting times. It is our belief that, by continuing to emphasize the quality journalism for which U.S. News has long been recognized, by continually improving and increasing the signature franchises for which the magazine is so well known, and by aggressively expanding the range and number of offerings on our website, the U.S. News brand will become an even more vital source of news and information far into the future.