In welcoming the large audience that filled the ballroom for the occasion Newsday Chief Executive Officer and Editor-in- Chief Therese Mills told the gathering, “You have in your hand the first Trinidad and Tobago edition of the USA Today that was printed in our El Socorro Pressroom.” She announced that from today, USA Today will be distributed Monday to Friday directly to subscribers and will be available at airports, airlines, hotels and several other sales outlets throughout TT.
“We often hear of marriages that are made in heaven. While we can’t claim that Newsday’s association with USA Today is a result of any divine intervention, we can certainly say that it represents for Newsday a natural progression in many interesting ways. There are many similarities which make this so,” Mills said.
“We at Newsday are in our 17th year. USA Today is barely ten years older, founded in 1982. So we are both young newspapers,” she said. “When Newsday started in 1993, we faced enormous challenges as we threw down the gauntlet to two well established national dailies. In four years however, Newsday had become the number one daily newspaper in readership in this country,” Mills continued.
She said findings of the latest Government-sponsored MORI poll indicate that Newsday is the newspaper of choice of 68 percent of readers in TT. Similarly, she said an ABC audit conducted last October, confirmed that USA Today has a daily circulation of 1.9 million copies.
Declaring that Newsday changed the face of newspapers in Trinidad and Tobago with its bold use of headlines and colour, Mills said, “In the early days, we faced much criticism of being too sensational, too colourful. However as we know, imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Today others have followed and have brightened their image with respect to the use of colour.”
She noted that USA Today also took a risk when it launched its own concept with regard to the use of colour, and that the last 28 years “had more than proven the wisdom of that decision made in 1982.”
Kelly, of USA Today, said Newsday is its second partner in the English-speaking Caribbean.
“We are very excited to have Newsday join our print partners around the world. This brings us to eight partners around the world. USA Today already has print partners in London (England), Germany, Belgium, Hong Kong, Puerto Rico, Nassau (the Bahamas) and Cancun (Mexico),” Kelly said.
He said it was hard to believe that “we just met each other. I think it was in mid-October that I met with Mrs Mills and Maria Cooper and here we are just in March and already launching this partnership. We are looking forward to a mutual, beneficial partnership for both our companies,” he said.
Explaining that a combination of short, crisp stories, graphics, snapshots and colour have given USA Today an advantage over its competitors in the US, Kelly said, “We are not only in the distribution business. We are in the conversation business. We want to be the catalyst for conversation. What we want to create is that water cooler conversation where people are talking about what they read in USA Today.”
Newsday Financial Comptroller Maria Cooper who was largely responsible for setting up the partnership, said Newsday’s partnership with USA Today started with the visit of consultant Rod Arnold to TT last October to see Newsday’s press at El Socorro. She said Arnold felt that Newsday would be a “perfect fit” with USA Today and subsequent discussions were started with Tom Kelly. Cooper said one of the reasons behind Newsday’s success over the last 17 years was “our innovativeness, our willingness to take risks and our belief in our product. We are not for the faint-hearted but for the reader who wants to remain truly informed.”
Heymer said USA Today was created for “the traveller with limited time on the go. At a time when newspaper readership or circulation has declined a little bit, we have never seen more readers engaged with our content,” she said.
“Last year, our readers took five million international trips. They stayed at 19 million international hotel nights. They rented 17 million cars and they took cruises. We have 22,000 hotel customers in the US,” she concluded.