While many newspapers are struggling financially and trying to figure out how to move from paper and ink to digital content, it appears that Gannett's USA Today is doing quite well on the iPad.
Last August, the paper was in the midst of a restructuring and cut 130 staff members. At that time, USA Today made a commitment of resources to the iPad app. Now The Telegraph is reporting that the app is turning out to be a boon to USA Today. Gracia Martore, COO of Gannett, said on Monday that "The iPad has been a real positive for USA Today," and will "translate into a much more significant improvement" in revenues.
Over 1.4 million copies of the app have been downloaded since April, and at this time, the digital newspaper is still ad-supported and free. That might change in the future as competition warms up (News Corp's The Daily is set to debut tomorrow), although the ads in the app command a price about five times that of standard web ads and appear to be fueling revenue growth at the paper.
USA Today's happy story is in sharp contrast to reports from many magazine publishers, who are seeing rapid declines in readership for iPad editions after initial success. Tomorrow's unveiling of The Daily will usher in an in-app subscription feature, which should eliminate publisher frustrations with the current need for readers to purchase each issue separately. Whether or not USA Today and other iPad publishers will adopt the new subscription feature is unknown, but it will make it much easier for readers to purchase and renew their subscriptions to iPad newspapers and magazines. That, in turn, should help content providers gain and keep readers for the digital editions.