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USA Today targets mobile audience with high school sports coverage

The USA Today High School Sports platform is seeking to reach young consumers who might never have even seen a print edition of the parent company?s flagship newspaper but are instead glued to their mobile devices for news and information. It is the latest division within Gannett?s USA Today Sports Media Group to deploy the publisher?s proprietary digital platform that seeks to optimize content for mobile.

?People talk about mobile-first, but our mindset is really almost mobile-only,? said Dave Morgan, president of USA Today Sports Media Group. ?For USA Today High School Sports, we thought it was almost essential that we approach it this way.?

USA Today High School Sports offers articles, photos and video from high school sports competitions around the country in partnership with Gannett?s 120-plus local media outlets and a network of about 5,000 school athletic directors.

Optimized for mobile
USA Today High School Sports this month optimized its Web site with responsive design and also launched its first mobile application in anticipation of the upcoming high school sports season. The app offers local and national sports coverage, as well as schedules and scores from schools that subscribe to Gannett?s Schedule Star tool.

Since relaunching the site with responsive design, about 60 percent of the traffic has been driven by mobile.

The mobile site features vertical scrolling with sections for blogs, team rankings, video and a merchandise store. It has also been improved to facilitate sharing content across social media with buttons on the headline menus in each section.

In addition to current coverage of high school athletics, much of the content also includes archival high school video of athletes who have since become professionals. For example, a video of basketball star Kobe Bryant from his high school days recently garnered 36 shares from the mobile site in just a few days.

The mobile site makes social sharing easy.

Other offerings that USA Today High School Sports has built into the mobile experience include live video streaming through a partnership with High School Cube and real-time streaming of sports scores and social media posts through a service called ScoreStream.

Among the newest features of USA Today High School Sports? offerings is a partnership with user-generated content syndication service Scoopshot. The London-based company offers a platform that allows publishers to access photos provided by amateurs and professionals alike who have been vetted by Scoopshot and have agreed to terms for the use of their images.

?It is authenticated crowdsourcing, and we think that is very important,? said Mr. Morgan.

He said he envisions that contributing photographers will likely be both submitting content and viewing it via mobile devices. USA Today Sports Media Group also worked with Scoopshot to customize the task tools that Scoopshot offers, allowing the publisher to send out assignments to the Scoopshot user network for the gamut of high school sporting events around the country.

Submitted content goes through the same approval and editing process that any content published by the company goes through.

Mr. Morgan said he envisions the young audience embracing the mobile-friendly content as well as the increased opportunities to participate in its creation and dissemination.

?We want to get our content into the hands of our users, and for this audience, that means mobile,? he said.

Final Take
Mark Hamstra is content director on Mobile Marketer, New York