By Stephanie Kuzydym
Associated Press Sports Editors First Vice President Gerry Ahern knows Gannett.
As a former sports editor at three Gannett newspapers (Huntington, W.Va., Lansing, Mich., and Detroit), he knows the company’s 82 papers, 23 television stations and many editors and writers within the chain.
As the former managing editor for colleges and investigations for Yahoo! Sports, Ahern also knows the web, and Dave Morgan – his boss for five years at the digital media company.
Ahern and Morgan have teamed up again, taking what they’ve learned from their years in the newspaper and online industries to Gannett’s newest innovation: the USA Today Sports Media Group. Morgan leads the group as senior vice president for content and editor-in-chief. Ahern joins as the director of news content. Partnering with Ahern and Morgan is Mark Pesavento, the ex-managing editor for blogs at Yahoo! Sports, who comes to the USAT media group as vice president for content.
“I’m fortunate to have people I’ve worked with before who are trusted colleagues who saw this opportunity and wanted in,” Morgan said.
The USA Today Sports Media Group will connect USA Today, USA Today Sports Weekly, the Gannett daily newspapers, TV stations, HighSchoolsports.net, BNQT.com (action sports) and MMAjunkie.com into a nationwide network that publishes on multiple platforms. Producing and distributing unique content from coast to coast on a daily basis is the goal, Ahern said.
“It could be as simple as breaking news or it could be in the investigative realm,” Ahern said. “It could be in terms of commentary and analysis. The bottom line is what can you do to differentiate yourself in the marketplace to give people a reason to come to your site and your print product instead of the competition.”
Ahern said he is thrilled to be back with Gannett and to again be working with Morgan, his colleague for more than 15 years.
“I don’t know if you can necessarily follow a playbook but certainly the one thing that resonates with users is original content,” Ahern said. “No one understands that more than Dave and I.”
Morgan knows the power of differentiating content. During his 5.5 years at Yahoo! Sports, Morgan grew the website’s online audience from 11.5 million unique users a month to 54 million a month. He said the USA Today Sports Media Group has a great opportunity to grow.
“It’s an enormous reservoir of content and audience,” Morgan said. “That’s what we’re going to build toward.”
Ahern, Morgan and Pesavento are deep into planning the network’s approach for upcoming major sports events.
“I’ve been in the business for a long time and had an absolutely great experience at Yahoo!, but when this opportunity came along … it’s kind of a dream job situation,” Ahern said. “I really can’t wait to get going with it even deeper.”