@ OPA: New USAToday.com Pulling 5,000 Daily New Members, Some Grumble

USAToday.com readers are creating as many as 5,000 profiles every day since the site relaunched last week with a strong social networking, user connections focus. “The people are reacting, everyone is thrilled,” said SVP Jeff Webber. “We’ve got some consumers that liked the old design and tell us we’ve gone too far. But 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 people a day are creating personae, commenting and coming in. We’re five days deep.”
Webber told me last night that many old-time readers had complained about the re-design. Lots of parallels here with Netscape’s revival, a year ago this week, as a user-submitted news aggregation platform. Ironically, many old-school Netscape users harnessed just that platform on launch day to grumble loudly about the changes. But USA Today can take heart – its features don’t hand over all the keys to the readers, and USAToday.com is still clearly a content creator, not just an aggregator.
“It’s five days old and … it’s not [just] an experiment,” Webber added in a Q&A session this morning. “Users can come in and create personae, comment on every story, produce and submit content and give us things. But the social media part is only one part – the other part is letting the outside in. Not becoming less journalistic, just expanding their role to be more of a guide – we point to the best on the web in addition to reporting the best that we have. We allow our users to see what else is out there and bring in other headlines as well. It’s not an experiment. It’s where we believe the world is going. We have a role to play as a professional news organisation.”
Update: Reuters Media president Chris Ahearn likes the new look: “USA Today is a great example of bravely going out there with something different – you’ll lose some people along the way, but then others will come along. It’s [about] getting everybody on the same page to say ‘lets go’.”
Regards: USAToday.com Remake Changes Looks, Mission; Adds Social Features