USA Today's brand-extension into publishing is in a period of transition, with the paper in talks with publishers about titles on travel, reference and lifestyle, and other topics. According to Christy Hartsell, director of brand licensing, there are a number of content areas that the paper believes have a lot of potential for the USA Today brand, adding that she is open to other ideas that may develop in discussions with publishers.
Hartsell and books editor Ben Nussbaum are now directly overseeing USA Today's licensing deals with publishers. The paper had been working with licensing agency Nancy Bailey & Associates. The change was made to take advantage of synergies between publishing and content licensing efforts. “We were already doing traditional licensing of content in-house, and we could pull all the content together and leverage it with our other assets and resources,” Hartsell said. Hartsell comes from the business side, with expertise in selling partnerships, while Nussbaum has experience as both licensee and licensor from his time at Soundprints and John Wiley.
Bailey & Associates will complete a couple of potential publishing deals that are already in progress, and will continue to represent the brand for licensing in most nonpublishing categories. Hartsell began meeting with publishers directly just before this year's BEA, and the first deal, with Skyhorse Publishing for two sports encyclopedias, came together quickly.
USA Today's first wave of branded books, magazines and calendars, all brokered by Bailey & Associates, has been hitting stores since last fall, with most releases coming this spring. Partners are primarily smaller, specialist publishers; they include Nolo (business and finance books), Sterling (puzzle books and crosswords), Sports Publishing (an anniversary coffee-table book, a sports annual) and Andrews & McMeel (sudoko and other puzzle books). A just-completed deal with Lerner will expand the brand into children's nonfiction.
Nolo Press released its first three USA Today books this spring. “It's a little different for us, but we thought the fit between Nolo and USA Today would be really interesting,” said Mary Randolph, Nolo's v-p of editorial. While a typical Nolo book tends to be full of heavy legal information, each USA Today title integrates the paper's well-known graphics and up-to-date stats, resulting in a quicker read. “It's still packed with information, but the presentation is a little lighter,” Randolph said. “I'm very pleased with it.”