USA Today to Launch Paid Digital Edition

USA Today is counting on new digital reading devices and mobile applications more than an online paid content strategy.

USA Today Publisher David Hunke said the national newspaper is being “extraordinarily bullish” on the move to wireless devices and mobile apps. “You will hear us talk about hybrid solutions as the key to us moving forward,” he said.

Hunke was speaking in New York today along with USA Today Editor John Hillkirk during a breakfast to introduce the newly appointed executives to press.

When asked about the possibility of USA Today charging for some online content—specifically whether the newspaper was in talks with Attributor’s Fair Syndication Consortium and Journalism Online—Hunke indicated that paid content is probably not the path for USA Today.

“I’m not absolutely convinced it works for us,” he said, adding that USA Today has had conversations with both the Fair Syndication Consortium and Journalism Online. “I do know this, we need to find a way to get paid for this….I don’t believe there is an easy day coming where everything flips to micropayments or subscriptions.”

Instead, the newspaper plans to focus on mobile applications like the app for iPhone—”We were stunned by how quickly that spread,” Hunke said—and e-readers.

Hunke also announced the newspaper would roll out a paid e-edition on Aug. 3.

USA Today is actively involved with e-reader developers Plastic Logic. Hunke previously served as CEO of the Detroit Media Partnership and still has oversight of the agency, which plans to test a Plastic Logic e-reader in the market sometime in 2010. However, he asserted that USA Today is talking with all e-reader manufactures. “We will not be associated with one brand,” he said, adding that he expects the market for e-readers to “explode.”

One thing that Hunke won’t bring over from his days in Detroit is a cut in USA Today’s frequency. When asked about the prospect he said, “No. One difference is our readers are constantly moving,” adding that Detroit is a unique market given its JOA status and the foundering local economy. “The fundamental principal of our circulation plan is we are going to be where you are.”

Indeed, Hunke said there would be no changes to circulation strategy given the decline in travel and hotel stays. “We love that space,” he said. “We are going to get into that more with an aggressive stance.”

The Wall Street Journal has recently moved in on what traditionally has been USA Today’s turf of hotel copies. The Journal recently announced a program with Hyatt Hotels. “The Wall Street Journal is very serious competition to us,” added Hunke.

Nielsen Business Media