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USA Today plans 'radical' overhaul to focus on devices like iPad

In a drastic shake-up, USA Today is restructuring in order to focus more on mobile and iPad content and less on print.

Details of the reorganization were announced Thursday and reported by The Associated Press. Roughly 130 staff will be cut during "the most dramatic overhaul" in the newspaper's 28-year history.

Despite being the second largest newspaper in the US, USA Today has struggled to keep circulation up and sell advertising in recent years. Circulation has dropped from 2.3 million in 2007, when USA Today was America's largest newspaper, to an average of 1.83 million. In its most recent quarter, the newspaper sold just 580 pages of advertising, compared to 1,098 pages sold in the same quarter of 2006.

USA Today's parent company, Gannett Co., which also owns over 80 smaller newspapers, has seen its stock plummet by 78% over the past four years.

Thursday's announcement is a radical solution to reverse the paper's downward trend. Separate managing editors overseeing sections of the paper will instead be replaced by a cluster of "content rings" overseen by an executive editor of content.

According to an internal slideshow obtained by The AP, USA Today will "focus less on print ... and more on producing content for all platforms (Web, mobile, iPad and other digital formats)."

"We have to go where the audience is," USA Today Editor John Hillkirk said. "If people are hitting the iPad like crazy, or the iPhone or other mobile devices, we've got to be there with the content they want, when they want it."

Another change, which is proving to be controversial, is the increased collaboration between the editorial and business side of the organization. USA Today hopes to "usher in a new way of doing business that aligns sales efforts with the content we produce."

The paper's publisher, Dave Hunke, reassured that the company's commitment to ethical journalism remained unchanged. "Under no circumstances do we ever compromise our integrity," Hunke said.

Gannett isn't the first media conglomerate to adjust its business model in response to the iPad. News Corp, which owns the reigning champion of US circulation rates, The Wall Street Journal, is going ahead with a plan to make a national digital newspaper geared toward the iPad and other mobile devices.

Last week, Time Inc.'s People became the first print magazine to offer subscribers free access to its corresponding iPad version.