Monday, April 22, 2013

Al Neuharth, 1924-2013

From the Los Angeles Times, "Al Neuharth dies at 89; newspaper mogul created USA Today":
USA Today was a different kind of newspaper, designed for a generation of readers raised on television who lacked the time and inclination to read lengthy stories. A bold retort to the gray pages of traditional newspapers, it had color photographs, eye-catching graphics and bite-sizestories with paragraphs set off by bullets. Organized into four distinct sections, it featured a brightly hued full-page weather map and catered to sports fans with a mass of game results and other statistics.

Neuharth, who aimed to capture an increasingly mobile generation of readers desiring an easy-to-digest format when they were at home or on the road, dubbed it "The Nation's Newspaper."

"Our audience will be the whole damned country, but we think we can attract a slice of 4 or 5 percent of the more affluent, better-educated people over most areas of the country," Neuharth predicted in a 1982 interview with the Miami Herald. "We won't compete locally. We will be a second buy."

Critics, however, derided the paper as gimmicky and "junk food journalism." "McPaper" became a favorite put-down by traditional journalists appalled by its emphasis on brief, breezy stories. Newsweek poked fun at its founder as "the man who shortened the attention spans of millions of Americans."

It lost money for the first five years. But by its fifth anniversary in 1987, revenues had begun to rise and critics began to change their tune, with stories in other newspapers describing USA Today as innovative, even revolutionary.

By the early 1990s, major dailies, including the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times, were redesigning their pages to be more reader-friendly, adding color, snappy graphics and stories that read more quickly.

An interesting guy.