USA Today: Small Yesterday, Big Today

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And they said it wouldn't last. When a brash, upstart paper called USA Today burst onto newsstands in early 1982, scores of skeptics said there would never be a sustained market for a daily newspaper with no regional focus. Those nonbelievers are eating their words Wednesday with the news that USA Today now boasts the largest circulation of any daily newspaper in America, edging out longtime leader The Wall Street Journal. For many newspaper purists it was a sad day, as the flashy newcomer that first incorporated high-tech graphics and eye-popping front-page color knocked off a sophisticated gray patriarch of in-depth analytical journalism.

When first published, USA Today was facetiously labeled "McPaper" by the newspaper industry's old guard. They said it read easily — too easily — and left readers devoid of intellectual nutrition. But the market has clearly proven that many Americans are attracted by simple, accessible news. Further, many of the older, more traditional papers, such as the Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe and Washington Post have absorbed a lot of the innovations that USA Today brought to the field. All are now using color, flashier graphics and shorter stories. Even the hallowed New York Times wouldn't be far from the truth if it changed its motto to "All the News, Blurbs, Graphics and Factoids That Are Fit to Print."