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Volume 21 No. 1
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New boss Morgan to keep USA Today Sports on course

Last week’s change at the top of USA Today Sports Media Group was certainly abrupt and surprising, but new President Dave Morgan said the company plans to keep up its aggressive run of new product development.

Morgan, a former Los Angeles Times and Yahoo Sports executive who replaced Tom Beusse, said he is seeking to continue a stretch of activity that in the last two years has included the purchase of Big Lead Sports, formation of Sports on Earth with MLB Advanced Media and, more recently, a video development deal with New Jersey-based CineSport and the successful introduction of social media-oriented sports destination For The Win and curated real-time sports news platform The Q.

Among the specific projects underway are the creation of a dedicated mobile application for the USA Today Sports Media Group, separate from the more general, news-oriented one for USA Today; relaunching all the sites in USA Today Sports Digital Properties, including Big Lead Sports and Hoops Hype; and expanding The Q to additional sports.

“We’ve still really just scratched the surface of what we’re going to be,” said Morgan, who acknowledged his ascension to company president came as a surprise even to him. “We’ve worked hard over the past 2 1/2 years to put all these assets together and create a pipeline of new products, and we’re now poised to really fulfill our potential.”

Beusse played a key role in the formation of USA Today Sports Media Group, and was named its initial president in January 2011. But as the operating unit continued to grow rapidly, rising to a top-five position in monthly comScore reach rankings of U.S. sports sites, Beusse differed with corporate parent Gannett Co. in his view for the long-term vision for the company.

“Gannett wants to be more closely aligned with what we’re doing. And really, what’s USA Today without sports?” Morgan said. “It’s not micromanaging by any stretch, but Tom wanted more autonomy. He’s a more entrepreneurial guy, and that’s what this was when it started. We were sort of an independent entity. But we’re in a different place now, and as time goes on, it’s harder to go on without a full integration with the rest of USA Today.”