USA Today looks to iPad as 'real positive' for struggling newspaper industry

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As the USA Today staff have had to cut costs and jobs to stay competitive, the success of the newspaper's iPad app has been a "real positive" for the company, executives said Monday.

While undergoing a radical restructuring, which included the cutting of 130 staff in the process, last August, USA Today committed to focusing more of its resources on the iPad.

It appears the focus has started to pay off. "The iPad has been a real positive for USA Today," the Telegraph UK reported Gracia Martore, Chief Operating Officer at USA Today parent company Gannett as saying,. "We expect this will translate into a much more significant improvement" in revenue, she added.

Though the paper has yet to reclaim the title of most-read national paper in the US from The Wall Street Journal, it has seen 1.4 million downloads of its app since it launched in April.

USA Today relies on advertising to fund its iPad app, but Gannett CEO Craig Dubow admitted that the company is "looking across the board" at charging for content.

According to a report last year, USA Today's iPad ads command up to five times more than web ads. Newspaper ads, however, still reign, as they cost up to twice as much as iPad ads.

"In iPad applications such as USA Today's, there is a finite amount of space and no ad networks are in the mix," the report said. "And the app gives advertisers new possibilities. A reader can click on Courtyard by Marriott's USA Today ad and then with a flick of a finger scroll through images of the hotels' updated lobby design. Another tap and a high-definition video appears, full of happy hotel guests."

USA Today's "positive" news comes at a time when some publishers have struggled to maintain downloads of their iPad issues. Magazine purchases for the iPad have been in sharp decline as initial interest has cooled.

News Corp hopes to be the one to turn things around. After several setbacks, Rupert Murdoch and his media conglomerate are ready to launch an iPad-exclusive publication called The Daily on Wednesday, February 2nd at the Guggenheim Museum. Apple vice president Eddy Cue will be in attendance.

Apple is also expected to reveal a subscription feature for digital newspapers and other periodicals, though it is not clear whether the iPad maker will unveil the feature at this week's event.

According to a recent report, publishers have become frustrated with Apple's current pay-per issue approach. People familiar with the matter claim that News Corp is as yet the only publisher to have struck a subscription deal with Apple.