To build a better product, you have to know what people want. At Gannett, by being consumer-centric, we are finding ways to leverage uncovered in-roads to our audiences, seize opportunities born out of the changing media landscape, and re-position what we do to grow our business. 

One such highly successful effort is something we dubbed “Butterfly.”

We knew we had terrific, highly trusted local newspapers and related digital products in more than 80 markets across the country and wanted to build further on our strong connections with our consumers by giving them more of what they value most — which is exceptional, engaging content. 

Here’s a quick primer on what we did to create an outstanding, new news product that has increased consumers’ time spent with the newspaper, enhanced ad recall, and in general made our subscribers very happy while extending the USA Today brand.

Response to the new USA Today local edition was both expected – and unexpected. Our early research indicated this would be effective and the effort continues to outperform revenue and profit projections across most markets.

But, what we didn’t anticipate was the heart-felt fervor with which consumers and advertisers have embraced these changes. That’s gratifying to all of us. Here’s how we did it: 

1. We carefully surveyed readers and launched significant market research, the results of which told us that while people highly valued their local newspapers, they wanted more national and international news coverage — and, in general, more content. 

We didn’t have to look far for a solution. It was right under our noses. USA Today is an iconic brand and a strong part of the Gannett portfolio of news products. 

2. We created a collaborative team to develop the product, then to test and launch. Together, U.S. Community Publishing (USCP) and USA Today focused on Gannett's unique ability to generate and distribute national content that our readers crave, while enhancing our ever-important local hometown coverage that is essential to readers’ daily lives. 

3. USCP and USA Today partnered to launch a pilot project in four of our markets, Indianapolis, Indiana; Rochester, New York; Appleton, Wisconsin; and Fort Myers, Florida. Each market added a new section in their newspapers and e-editions, featuring the best of USA Today’s News, Money and Life sections. USA Today’s Sports news is included in the local Sports sections and on Sundays, and a USA Today Life section complements the local feature coverage. 

The addition of USA Today’s robust national content delivers great subscriber value. At the same time, it allows reporters and editors in those communities to focus on delivering more of what they do so well — deep, high-quality, local coverage. 

4. We promoted the changes. Not surprisingly, the message of more content, more pages, more local, and more national news resonated well with consumers.

Our publishers corresponded directly with subscribers via direct mail, e-mail, and social media. We used our owned media as well as external media to communicate the changes and emphasise our investment in the content and the overall product. An increase of 70 pages per week on average did not go unnoticed by our subscribers, but the “More” promotions resonated and amplified the message.

End result: We offered readers something they can't get anywhere else, as no other media organisation can deliver as complete a daily news report, leveraging strictly its own reporting assets. 

Today, that pilot project is no longer a test and Butterfly is now implemented in 34 of our local markets, enabling us to enhance the way we connect with consumers and their communities through our outstanding news products every day. 

We recently surveyed a number of the markets and are gratified to learn that the addition of the USA Today local edition has increased the time spent with the daily print edition. Subscribers also tell us they are more satisfied with their local newspaper since the changes and perceive increased value in their subscriptions.

Stay tuned because research is currently underway to assess extending Butterfly into additional select markets.