Newspaper Publishing Giant Gannett Hires Full Time Taylor Swift Reporter

Gannett, the nation’s largest newspaper publisher and owner of USA Today, Nov. 6 announced the hiring of 35-year-old journalist Bryan West as the company’s inaugural full time reporter covering all things related to singer/activist Taylor Swift. Gannett is also hiring a journalist to cover Beyoncé Knowles-Carter.

Bryan West

West, winner of the Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award for investigative journalism, will report on Swift for The Tennessean and all USA Today-related media outlets, which includes more than 200 local websites and newspapers across 43 states. West will report on Swift’s influence on music, business and social issues, while also chronicling the latest news from Swift’s concert tour stops, albums and related social media activity.

“Taylor Swift is a singular cultural force who is shaping our world in arguably unprecedented fashion,” Michael Anastasi, Gannett’s VP of local news and the editor of The Tennessean, said in a statement. “Chronicling her story, her impact, her influence takes unique expertise and experience and we’re confident Bryan is the right journalist for this moment.”

Swift, whose concert movie Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour has generated a record $166 million at the domestic box office, is currently continuing the second leg of The Eras Tour concert tour. The singer recently topped $1 billion in personal wealth.

Gannett Bows ‘USA Today Sports+’ Streaming Service

When USA Today launched in 1980, it revolutionized the newspaper industry by offering a national paper targeting local markets. The venerable media company is now playing catch-up with a new over-the-top video service, called USA Today Sports+.

Parent Gannett Sept. 7 said the platform enables subscribers to curate and customize their local sports experience with immersive content, including interactive video, audio and augmented reality features.

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USA Today Sports+ launches in seven markets, including Arizona, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee and Wisconsin to complement the start of the 2021 National Football League season.

The product is free for existing digital subscribers of select Gannett properties in launch markets, includingThe Indianapolis StarDetroit Free Press and The Enquirer. New users can subscribe via the USA Today Sports+ App or directly on the website and receive a three-month free trial. Non-subscribers can access three non-premium articles and view the first AR experience. Registered users can access all non-premium articles and also view the first AR experience.

The subscription streams real-time sports news, reporting, content, betting odds, and insider analysis from more than 300 local, niche, and national publications across the USA Today network. Subscribers will also have access to SMS texting and live group chats.

USA Today recently launched a branded digital subscription model with a goal to reach 10 million subscribers by the end of 2025. Gannett also entered into a sports betting agreement with Tipico U.S., the U.S.-based sportsbook of Tipico Group Ltd. in Germany. Tipico will provide odds integration and live, real-time NFL scoreboards and gaming data across USA Togay Sports+.

“Gannett is betting big on sports,” Gannett CEO Michael Reed said in a statement. “We are well positioned to reach our sports audience of over 53 million sports fans and capitalize on our large network of over 500 dedicated sports journalists, offering access and local perspective.”

Gannett is marketing the sports SVOD through mid-November with a campaign dubbed “Fan Harder.” The campaign includes radio ads, out-of-home billboards and banners, a geo-targeted social media campaign with TikTok and Twitter, digital displays and sponsorships at local events.

USA Today Sports+ is also providing subscribers with “Hear This Story” audio features, “It’s a Football Podcast!” original insider podcast, homepage customization, sports gaming insight and odds.

The first available AR experience will showcase Tennessee Titans super fan, Yolanda Dixon, and Indianapolis Colts super fan, Rick Stevens, their passion for the game and their team loyalty. These sensory experiences immerse subscribers in storytelling through multi-surface tracking, geolocation support, and volumetric video support.

Subscribers will have access to a new AR experience monthly, delivering industry leading interactive features, data visualizations, interactive photos and videos with 3D elements and audio experiences.

Finally, Josina Anderson, an NFL expert and veteran with over 20 years of experience, is joining USA Today Sports+ as a senior NFL insider. Anderson is the creator and host of “Undefined With Josina Anderson” and “The Crew.” She previously worked for ESPN and was named the network’s first female national NFL insider in 2015.

Gannett Relaunches ‘USA Today’ Streaming Video Platforms

Gannett is relaunching of its over-the-top video properties, which include USA Today News and USA Today SportsWire.

Since launching OTT channels in 2018, Gannett has expanded to more than a dozen free ad-Supported streaming TV (FAST) platforms, including Xumo, The Roku Channel, Amazon Prime Video, Tubi, and Samsung TV Plus, among others. The expansion has provided substantial growth in audience and engagement reaching more than 25 million monthly views, and 200% increase in average view duration across all platforms in the last year.

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“We’re taking USA Today to all audiences in the U.S. and around the world,” Caroline Harris, VP of digital distribution at Gannett, said in a statement.

To help facilitate the expanded digital presence, Gannett is working with media technology company Amagi.

“Amagi thrives on making high quality content accessible to multi-screen audiences around the world,” said co-founder Srinivasan Ka. “Our partnership with Gannett is enabling them to tap into a wide network of connected TV households, providing linear TV viewers access to USA Today’s premium sports and news content while enhancing monetization opportunities.”

The channel programming features award-winning editorial documentaries from the USA Today Network, franchise series produced by USA Today Studios, Gannett’s premiere video production and development group, and news from insiders and the most trusted journalists in the world including the following series:

  • Humankind — In every episode, Humankind reveals the stories of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances: people acting with grace and heroism and summoning incredible determination and dedication to a cause.
  • Problem Solved — In this series, experts at Reviewed and USA Today are learning and testing new products along with the latest viral hacks, that help make consumers’ lives a little easier.​
  • Entertain This! — The latest news in entertainment from USA Today, including pop culture, celebrities, movies, music, books and TV reviews.
  • Just the FAQs and What We Know Now — Two highly visual and complementary explainer series covering top stories and trends in news, politics, and science.
  • Sports Seriously — A weekly series that brings together the unmatched reporting and insight of USA Today Sports and Sports Media Group, and access to the top athletes and names in sports. With a fresh format, style, and substance, Sports Seriously takes a conversational approach to the biggest stories, events, and cultural touchpoints in sports, and celebrates the moments that make us all sports fans.

 

Separately, USA Today will stream the national USA Today High School Sports Awards on Aug. 5 at 8 p.m. ET. The show, co-hosted by Michael Strahan and Rob Gronkowski, is the culmination of 105 regional and statewide awards programs celebrating elite high school athletes, coaches, and teams.

Mike Clark, Veteran Film Critic and ‘MPN’ Columnist, Dies

Film critic and Media Play News contributor Mike Clark died July 31 due to complications from a fall a few days earlier. He had been suffering health issues for some time. He was 73.

His son, Nick, posted on Facebook, “As most of you know he had been struggling with liver disease for several years. Daily activities had become more and more difficult, but he still gave himself completely when spending (sometimes virtual) time with children and grandchildren and other family and friends. He also continued to write and work on his music project right up until the very end. He was with family in his final hours, and he passed very peacefully.”

Mike Clark

Clark, who lived in Virginia, had been contributing reviews of newly issued Blu-ray Discs and DVDs of celebrated theatrical blockbusters — as well as more obscure movies from the golden days of Hollywood and before — since Media Play News was launched in January 2018, as well as its predecessor, Home Media Magazine, from 2010 to 2017.

From 1985 to 2009, Clark was senior film critic and home entertainment columnist for USA Today.

Clark exhibited a passion for film from a young age growing up in Ohio. As a child, he appeared as a 10-year-old film expert on the popular TV quiz show “The $64,000 Question.” He followed that with a job at a CBS affiliate in one of the country’s largest feature film libraries, and later attended New York University’s Graduate School of Cinema.

Clark programmed approximately 150 film series and 5,000 individual titles over eight years as program planner, and eventually director, of the American Film Institute Theater (then located in Washington, D.C.’s John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts).

He also spent a year as film critic for the Detroit Free Press. A contributing editor to Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide since 1973, Clark was also an elected member of the National Society of Film Critics.

(L-R): Film critics Leonard Maltin and Mike Clark. (Photo courtesy of Leonard Maltin)

“Mike’s enthusiasm was second to none where movies and pop culture were concerned,” said film critic Leonard Maltin, who published his namesake guide from 1969 to 2014. “He was a valued contributor to my Movie Guide for decades. Even when he landed his job at USA Today I beseeched him to continue writing for the book because his reviews were so funny. I looked forward to his work in Media Play News, which made use of his tremendous savvy as well as his unique sense of humor. I will miss his writing, just as I will miss our friendship.”

In 2017, Maltin wrote an appreciation for Clark’s reviews in a blog post at his website, LeonardMaltin.com, and recalled how he first encountered “Movie Mike,” as Clark was known around the newsroom.

“I met him when he was attending the NYU Graduate School of Cinema,” Maltin wrote. “He and I bonded over our love for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis and our unexplainable interest in the little-remembered Keefe Brasselle.”

USA Today’s Mike Snider said he was a colleague of Clark for nearly two decades.

“Movie Mike certainly earned his nickname,” Snider said. “He was a fixture of the USA Today Life section. His film reviews and columns were always incisive and readers were certain to learn something far beyond the particular films being critiqued.”

A huge fan of the New York Yankees and the Ohio State Buckeyes, Clark was “smart, quick and funny, and I was lucky enough to get to see him the last few years as he managed an art-house film theater near my home in northern Virginia,” Snider said. “The film industry has lost one of its great voices.”

Another former USA Today colleague, Jim Cheng, wrote on Facebook, “My heart is broken like the third reel of a grindhouse double feature. The great Movie Mike Clark has left the screening room. Friend, mentor, endless font of information (not just movies), father, grandfather, and of course, Yankee fan. Love to his family. RIP, Movie Mike. In his honor, I hope to spend the weekend watching classic movies.”

Clark is survived by his two sons, Nick (Megan) and Alex; grandsons Benjamin and Oliver; sister Marta (Glenn); ex-wife and close friend Cathy Crary; and many other relatives and friends.